Union: demotion of dep. fire commissioner was retaliation

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A deputy Buffalo Fire commissioner has been demoted while another is under investigation. Though Mayor Byron Brown says the demotion is about overtime costs, union members say it’s dirty politics.

Mayor Brown says Vincent Gugliuzza has been demoted from his position as deputy fire commissioner because, “We requested the resignation over concerns about overtime in the department. Those concerns had been expressed over a period of time, had not been addressed to my satisfaction.”

Fire Union President Dan Cunningham says that not keeping a lid on overtime was the same reason the administration gave for demoting Fire Commissioner Mike Lombardo four years ago.

“The deputy is the scapegoat. So he was the commissioner. Why now is the deputy commissioner held responsible for cutting overtime?” Cunningham questioned.

Brown countered, “As the deputy for operations, certainly was a role and responsibility in that area we were not satisfied with the numbers.”

News 4 looked at the numbers, and the City of Buffalo has spent about $8 million a year on overtime for firefighters for several years, and spent even more than that five years ago, before Gugliuzza was a deputy fire commissioner.

Cunningham believes this demotion has something to do with retaliation toward the union, saying, “Vince Gugliuzza was pro-union. In an atmosphere where we’re at war with the mayor, he was a calming influence. He tried to just balance things out.”

And for the past few months, the union has been trying to prove that the other deputy fire commissioner, Joe Tomizzi, ran a background check on a high profile union member.

The issue is still under investigation by the City, and although no charges have been lodged, Tomizzi has hired attorney Terry Connors.

“Joe Tomizzi has cooperated completely with his employer, the City of Buffalo. He submitted to interviews and he’s provided his employer with the details surrounding his investigative work and now the employer is looking at it as a personnel matter,” Connors said. “He has a job to do and that job often requires him to run background checks and searches on scores of people because he has a number of investigations pending.”

Connors added, “It’s not as though he has access to some secret trove of information that no one else can see. I have a computer program that I can look up records on people.”

Joe Tomizzi remains a deputy fire commissioner but for the time being cannot access records through Central Police Services.

Meanwhile, Vincent Gugliuzza is back in his civil service role as a Buffalo firefighter.

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