Fire Commissioner Testifies at Firefighter Demotions Hearing

14 recently promoted fire officers were stripped of their titles following a court fight

By Vince Lattanzio
|  Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013  |  Updated 2:01 PM EDT
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NBC10's Monique Braxton is outside City Hall where hearings got underway Wednesday for the controversial demotion of 14 local firefighters.

NBC10 - Monique Braxton

NBC10's Monique Braxton is outside City Hall where hearings got underway Wednesday for the controversial demotion of 14 local firefighters.

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After winning the right in court to demote 14 firefighters shortly after they were promoted into vacant captain and lieutenant positions, the Philadelphia fire commissioner was compelled to explain the decision before City Council.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers testified before Philadelphia City Council's Committee on Labor and Civil Service on Wednesday to answer questions about why the department stripped five fire captains and nine lieutenants of their titles -- four months after rising in the ranks.

The commissioner was subpoenaed by council on Tuesday after The Nutter Administration said Ayers was not coming.

The committee's head, Councilman James Kenney, has been a vocal critic of the demotions and called for such a hearing to take place.

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The firefighters were given those promotions in July after the International Association of Firefighters and Paramedics Local 22 sued the city for stalling on filling the vacant officer promotions. The union won the court case and the department promoted the officers based off of a pre-assigned promotions list.

However, the city appealed the decision, arguing that the fire commissioner should be allowed to make promotions at his discretion to select the best candidates. An appellate court agreed and reversed the ruling on Sept 18.

A judge eventually issued a stay in the case before siding with the city on the issue. The fire officers then lost their posts.

Ayers told the committee the demoted officers were well aware that they could lose their posts should a court decide in the department's favor.

"The union was well aware of everything that's happening," Ayers said. "This didn't happen in some vacuum like they weren't talking back and forth, they knew what the situation was."

The 14 firefighters and their families were also at the hearing to sound off about how the demotions have affected them.


Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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