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on seven different dates between June 3 and 13, only to demote them to their prior ranks on Sept. 23 after Tucker rescinded his order.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testified that he instructed all 14 to take the upcoming test in case their court-ordered promotions were later rescinded.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.