Northeast Times

Fire commissioner accused of lying under oath

Stand­ing on the ap­ron of City Hall, Phil­adelphia fire­fight­ers uni­on lead­er Joe Schulle on Fri­day ac­cused Fire Com­mis­sion­er Lloyd Ay­ers of ly­ing un­der oath re­gard­ing the re­cent de­mo­tions of 14 uni­on mem­bers.

Schulle fur­ther ac­cused the fire de­part­ment’s hu­man re­sources man­ager, Kar­en Hy­ers, of ly­ing un­der oath to cor­rob­or­ate Ay­ers’ ac­count of the per­son­nel moves and called upon Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams to in­vest­ig­ate wheth­er Ay­ers and Hy­ers com­mit­ted per­jury dur­ing their Sept. 25 testi­mony be­fore Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Le­on Tuck­er.

“Not only was their testi­mony clearly false, it was also nearly identic­al and in­ten­tion­al,” Schulle said dur­ing the City Hall news con­fer­ence.

The con­tro­versy stemmed from a law­suit filed by Loc­al 22 of the In­ter­na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Fire Fight­ers seek­ing to force the Fire De­part­ment to fill va­cant su­per­vis­ory jobs by pro­mot­ing uni­on mem­bers whose names were on a civil ser­vice list. The Nut­ter ad­min­is­tra­tion fought the uni­on’s de­mand, claim­ing that pro­mo­tions should be the prerog­at­ive of the ad­min­is­tra­tion be­cause they are con­sidered man­age­ment de­cisions.

Judge Tuck­er on May 14 ruled in fa­vor of the uni­on and ordered the ad­min­is­tra­tion to pro­mote nine fire­fight­ers to lieu­ten­ant and five lieu­ten­ants to cap­tain. Upon ap­peal, however, Tuck­er lif­ted the or­der.

The uni­on claims that Ay­ers pro­moted the 14 mem­bers on sev­en dif­fer­ent dates between June 3 and 13, only to de­mote them to their pri­or ranks on Sept. 23 after Tuck­er res­cin­ded his or­der. Two days later, the sides re­turned to Tuck­er’s courtroom as the uni­on sought to block the de­mo­tions. Schulle claims that both Ay­ers and Hy­ers told the court mul­tiple false­hoods at the hear­ing.

Ay­ers al­legedly test­i­fied that he had in­ter­viewed and pro­moted all 14 fire­fight­ers on May 30 at Fire Headquar­ters. At that time, the de­part­ment was plan­ning to con­duct test­ing for a new civil ser­vice list on June 8. Ay­ers al­legedly test­i­fied that he in­struc­ted all 14 to take the up­com­ing test in case their court-ordered pro­mo­tions were later res­cin­ded.

“The real­ity is, not one in­ter­view or pro­mo­tion was con­duc­ted on (May 30),” Schulle said.

All 14 pro­motees have giv­en signed af­fi­davits that the in­ter­views and pro­mo­tions oc­curred on oth­er dates. Also, Schulle said, the of­fi­cial Fire Headquar­ters lo­g­book shows that sev­en of the pro­motees signed in­to the build­ing on dif­fer­ent dates. The oth­er sev­en did not sign the lo­g­book at all. 

Schulle con­tends that the uni­on has ad­di­tion­al dated doc­u­ments that show the in­ter­views and pro­mo­tions did not oc­cur on the date that Ay­ers test­i­fied that they did. Fur­ther, half of the pro­mo­tions oc­curred after the June 8 test­ing date, so Ay­ers could not have in­struc­ted them to take the test, Schulle said.

Ay­ers’ of­fi­cial spokes­man did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on the al­leg­a­tions. A Nut­ter ad­min­is­tra­tion spokes­man, Mark Mc­Don­ald, is­sued this state­ment by email: “The ad­min­is­tra­tion stands by the com­mis­sion­er’s testi­mony.”

Re­gard­ing Hy­ers, the uni­on claims that she sim­il­arly mis­rep­res­en­ted the in­ter­view and pro­mo­tion dates to the court. Hy­ers al­legedly test­i­fied that she is­sued a form let­ter to each pro­motee on May 30, the date of their pro­mo­tions. The let­ter in­formed them that their pro­mo­tions might be res­cin­ded de­pend­ing on the out­come of the pending court ap­peal.

Schulle claims that the let­ter was in fact dated on May 30, but it was not is­sued to the pro­motees un­til their meet­ings with Ay­ers between June 3 and 13. Fur­ther, Hy­ers wasn’t present at work for four of the pro­mo­tions on June 6 and 7, so she could not have handed the let­ter to those four pro­motees, ac­cord­ing to the uni­on lead­er.

Also, sev­er­al of the pro­motees have test­i­fied that Hy­ers as­sured them that the pro­mo­tions would not be res­cin­ded des­pite the let­ter that she had handed to them. Schulle fur­ther ac­cused Ay­ers of re­peat­ing his false ac­count of the pro­mo­tions while testi­fy­ing be­fore City Coun­cil’s Com­mit­tee on Labor and Civil Ser­vice on Oct. 30.

The uni­on lead­er dis­misses the pos­sib­il­ity that Ay­ers or Hy­ers simply “con­fused” the dates of the pro­mo­tions when testi­fy­ing in Tuck­er’s courtroom or in City Coun­cil, not­ing that it would be pretty dif­fi­cult to for­get if the court-ordered pro­mo­tions were made on a single day or on nu­mer­ous dates over a 10-day span.

“The real­ity is that they provided this false testi­mony to cov­er up the fact that they did not give these mem­bers the op­por­tun­ity to take the up­com­ing pro­mo­tion­al test,” Schulle said.

The dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice con­firmed re­ceiv­ing a let­ter from Loc­al 22 re­quest­ing an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to Ay­ers’ and Hy­ers’ testi­mony, but re­fused fur­ther com­ment.

Schulle said the uni­on is also seek­ing re­lief from Com­mon­wealth Court and Pennsylvania Su­preme Court in get­ting the pro­mo­tions re­stored.

“We want to see these 14 mem­bers re­stored to their po­s­i­tions as they should be,” he said. ••

ON THE WEB:

For video cov­er­age of Fri­day’s news con­fer­ence at City Hall, vis­it the North­east Times chan­nel at You­Tube.com.

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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