Please visit and THANK the attorneys at Sullivan & Galleshaw, especially Keith Sullivan and Jay Galleshaw, whose pro bono assistance has been absolutely INVALUABLE!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Joe Torrillo Attends Gitmo Trial...

Joe Torrillo, a retired New York Fire Department lieutenant who survived the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. This week, he's at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to observe pretrial arguments in the case against five alleged Sept. 11 plotters.
Joe Torrillo, a retired New York Fire Department lieutenant who survived the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Joe Torrillo attended the most recent Merit Matters meeting on 5/28/14 and presented our lawyers Sullivan and Galleshaw with a plaque he made in appreciation for all the work they have done for us over the years. I am glad he got this chance to attend this proceeding in Cuba.

Paul Mannix

Two retired New York firefighters, buried alive on 9/11, confront plot’s self-proclaimed mastermind in Guantanamo Bay courtroom - NY Daily News

See the NY Daily News article here:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Potential Lawsuit Regarding DCAS Failure to Notify Members of Captains Exam Postponeme​nt

Fellow FDNY Lieutenants,

We are writing to inform you of some action we may take against the DCAS for its gross disregard for us and our families. You may be able to assist.

On 6/13/2014, anyone who registered for the upcoming Captains exam received an e-mail from DCAS:

“As you may know, this exam was postponed until further notice on April 23, 2014.”

No, I did not know; I only learned of the postponement through the rumor mill of the UFOA.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.”
This caused more than inconvenience, this caused significant harm to my family and my finances.

“Please do not reply to this message.”

I won’t, but my attorneys might.

By failing to officially inform us of the postponement in a timely fashion, DCAS may have breached a contract, making them liable for damages. Between 3/12/2014 (opening of filing) and 5/8/2014 (the UFOA meeting at which the seriousness of the postponement was unofficially announced) we all spent hundreds of hours each studying, sacrificing our time and families.

The case is strong enough that a few law firms are interested in possibly working on it. The easier part of the case to prove is the formation of a contract and that the failure to notify us of the postponement is a breach of contract.

The harder part is proving our damages, which are a combination of (1) our time spent studying and (2) the value of our time. As to time, our sworn statements that we studied are good evidence, but any documents showing time spent will help. As to the value of our time, we’re looking for creative suggestions, besides the obvious foregone overtime.

Please contact us with any examples or suggestions about evidence of damages. Evidence MUST pertain to the time period after the NOE was announced. Time spent studying in anticipation of the NOE is on you. No lawsuit will ever stop the rumor mill of our beloved FDNY!

Examples of strong evidence that some members have suggested:

Receipts from FireTech, including the attendance cards

Receipts from other on-line test preparation services

Personal records of time spent studying (e.g. dated reading schedules or a log of time)

Records of cancelled travel plans

Records of foregone side-work

Records of significant foregone family obligations (e.g. a member who postponed his wedding from June 21st to another Saturday - true story!)

The purpose of this effort is to force DCAS to operate professionally in the future and not ruin the lives of city employees by their incompetency. Additionally, there is the potential for some monetary compensation, which would be split equally among all those who registered for the exam, regardless of their active participation or not in initiating this effort.

This effort should have no impact on the debate and pending litigation about extending the current Captains list. We are not seeking to force DCAS to hurry up and give an exam, only to force DCAS to promptly notify members of changes to exam dates. If you feel there is a potential for an unintended negative consequence for current Captains eligibles or anyone else, please contact us to explain your concern.

If we proceed with a class-action suit, all members who registered for the exam will be contacted by the court system about participation. At this time, there is no need to contact us to ensure participation. However, if you have strong evidence to contribute or just want to stay informed of any progress, please send your name, company, and e-mail address to Denis Sweeney.


Denis Sweeney

Mike Tracey
B27/UFO E67

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


June 9th, 2014

We have been very busy and have allowed a few things to slip through the cracks. Herein we attempt to catch up.

Meeting 5/28/14

We had a well attended meeting and covered a lot of ground. The importance of meeting face to face periodically was evident; we gained as much or more as we provided as the information, ideas, etc. flowed both ways.

Jay Galleshaw of Sullivan and Galleshaw was present to answer legal questions. He was presented with a hand- made plaque by retired Lieutenant Joe Torrillo in appreciation for all the work he and Keith Sullivan have done for us.

One of our speakers was EMS Lt. Rich Erdey, who had a truly scary story to tell about the state of the EEO process and urged what we have been urging – to fight back. He is and we all should do the same when treated unfairly.

Another topic discussed was directed at those who were hired off the list from the 1999 test. If this is you, you are strongly urged to call Steve Brady E-84 at 845-304-4130.


There is perhaps no one who understands the importance of a color-blind, gender-blind, ideology-blind promotion system better than a Merit Matters Representative who has earned-yes, earned- a promotion. We like to recognize our Reps for stepping up and getting involved in the fight when they are promoted or attain Union office. First, the most recent promotees, the rank they were promoted to and where they were Reps:

BC John Urbielewicz B-52
Lt. Chris Riordan B-39
Lt. Brian Brady B-6
Lt. Kevin Candido B-37

Now, a couple of guys who we neglected to recognize a few months ago:

Lt. Kevin Thomas B-9
Lt. Travis Boroden B-15

We apologize for the delay in recognizing them, but are very happy to do so now.

In closing we want to recognize a recent medal winner. All Officers and Firefighters who performed their duty in the highest traditions of our job are appreciated by Merit Matters, but we ask your indulgence in allowing us to focus on and congratulate one firefighter who is a particularly strong supporter of Merit Matters and deserves special mention:

FF Chris Slutman L-17

Paul Mannix
President - Merit Matters

516-848-9847 cell

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Yet ANOTHER Reason for Optimism....

Freeport PD Lt. Christopher Barrella

A few nights ago at the Merit Matters meeting we discussed reasons to be pessimistic about events occurring in connection with the Vulcan Society lawsuit and its wake...as well as reasons to be optimistic (and there are some). Now, lo and behold, a scant two days later we learn of two more reasons to be optimistic.

Events related to the stories below occurred for one reason: people fought back. They stuck their neck out; they risked "getting into trouble"; they did not stick their tails between their legs or listen to advice such as "you can't win; there's nothing you can do" or fear retaliation. They stood up for their rights and the rights of others. 

In Freeport, NY the discrimination included changing the rules to benefit one person and harm another based on race as well as ignoring the results of a civil service test (and don't think that this strategy, already in use in NYC, is not being contemplated for wider application in the FDNY). The Mayor also ignored that Lt. Barrella had more time in rank than then -Lieutenant Bermudez and had earned a law degree and a Master's in Public Administration in comparison to Bermudez' high school diploma.

Freeport's defense seems to consist of this idiocy: there was no discrimination because Bermudez is a "white Hispanic" and that cronyism is not only back but is applauded (the Mayor and Bermudez were Vollies together).

My favorite part of the story from St. Louis is how Sgt. Bonenberger advises that no one should be "intimidated by members of the command rank (from standing up) when they are illegally discriminated against or harassed". It would seem to me that the command rank would be supporting someone who fights against illegal discrimination and harassment because after all...oh, right. I almost forgot. It's not restricted to St. Louis. Never mind.

Enjoy the read, spread the word, be optimistic and always fight back.

Paul Mannix
President - Merit Matters
Evidence of Reverse Discrimination Was So ‘Overwhelming’ That a Jury Awarded the Victim More Than $1 Million

Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Oliver Darcy

A New York police officer was awarded $1.35 million dollars this week after he successfully sued the village of Freeport, alleging he was passed over for a promotion because of his race.
A Long Island jury sided with Lt. Christopher Barrella after he claimed that then-Mayor Andrew Hardwick overlooked him to become chief of police so that he could name a Hispanic candidate to the position instead.

“I am very gratified that the jury ruled that I deserved to be chief of police. Throughout this entire process, I have tried to maintain a positive attitude and do my best for the department and the village of Freeport and will continue to do so,” Barrella said in a statement. “It has been a long and trying process, but I always had faith that if we could present our case to a jury of my peers they would see that I was discriminated against.”

His legal team, comprised of Amanda M. Fugazy and Adam C. Weiss, said that “racial discrimination against white employees is just as unlawful as discrimination black, Hispanic or Asian employees.”

“The evidence was quite overwhelming leaving no doubt that Hardwick took race into account when hiring the chief of police and in many other employment decisions he made as mayor,” Weiss said.

Barella’s legal team presented evidence showing that Hardwick moved to change rules to allow Miguel Bermudez, at the time an Hispanic lieutenant, to apply for the chief position. Bermudez at the time did not have enough time in grade as a lieutenant to apply for the position.

Fugazy and Weiss argued that their client had a superior resume, noting that he scored first on the chief’s civil service exam, while Bermudez placed third, and had spent more years as a lieutenant, held a law degree and a master’s degree in public administration, and had undergone special training at the FBI academy. By comparison, Bermudez only held a high school diploma.

A Freeport representative did not respond to a request for comment from TheBlaze Thursday, but the release issued by Barrella’s legal team said they had tried to argue no racial discrimination had occurred because Bermudez is a “white Hispanic.”

“This argument was undercut by the fact that Hardwick, according to several witnesses, referred to Bermudez as Freeport’s ‘first Hispanic police chief’ on numerous occasions and also made other racially based statements,” the release said.
In addition to damages and the former mayor’s legal fees, the village will have to cover Barella’s legal fees.
Christopher Barrella, white Freeport police lieutenant, awarded $1.35M in racial discrimination lawsuit

Thursday, May 29th, 2014
By Sid Cassese

A federal jury has awarded $1.35 million to a white Freeport police lieutenant who sued the village for racial discrimination after it awarded the police chief's job to a Hispanic officer with fewer academic qualifications and a lower test score.

"It has been a long and trying process [since January 2012], but I always had faith that...a jury of my peers...would see that I was discriminated against," Lt. Christopher Barrella, 47, of Suffolk County, said in a news release from one of his lawyers, Amanda Fugazy of Glen Cove.

Keith M. Corbin, a Freeport spokesman, said village officials plan to appeal Thursday's jury decision. "There is no supporting evidence...that the Village of Freeport discriminated against Lt. Barrella," he said.

Former Mayor Andrew Hardwick was a defendant in the case, but he could not be reached Thursday for comment. Neither could his lawyer, Ken Novikoff of Rivkin Radler in Uniondale. Hardwick was the village's first black mayor.

Barrella, who is still on the job, had charged in court papers that upon "being sworn in as mayor, Hardwick immediately began terminating and demoting qualified, experienced Non-Hispanic whites and replacing them with less qualified and less experienced Hispanic and Black employees."

Miguel Bermudez, 55, had four more years on the job in Freeport than Barrella, but no college, while Barrella has two college degrees. Barrella also scored highest on the test for chief; Bermudez came in third. Bermudez had been a fellow firefighter with Hardwick for many years in Freeport.

"Based on this history and relationship, Hardwick trusted Bermudez," U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt in Central Islip said in an earlier decision, while noting that Hardwick did not know Barrella before being named mayor in 2009.
Bermudez, also a lieutenant, was promoted to deputy chief, then assistant chief before becoming chief. Barrella was not interviewed for any of the jobs.

The jury award included $200,000 in punitive damages. Freeport must also pay the expenses for all the lawyers in the case, Fugazy said. "Racial discrimination against white employees is just as unlawful as discrimination [against] black, Hispanic or Asian employees," Fugazy said. "Mayor Andrew Hardwick and the Village of Freeport seemingly forgot that."
White Cop Wins $620,000 in Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

By Unnamed Author(s)
Friday, May 30th, 2014 ‘Lawyers.Com’

A federal jury awarded $620,000 to a white St. Louis police officer who sued alleging discrimination by superiors who gave an open leadership post to a less qualified black officer.

Sgt. David Bonenberger thought he had a chance at his dream job when he learned the St. Louis Police Academy needed a new assistant director. But the top cop at the Police Academy, Lt. Michael Muxo, advised Bonenberger that a higher ranking officer, Lt. Col. Reggie Harris, ordered him to “bring color down to the academy.” Muxo told Bonenberger not to bother applying, because the position was going to a black woman.

Bonenberger applied anyway, but despite extensive experience with the Police Academy and numerous training certifications, he wasn’t even contacted for an interview. The position ultimately went to Sgt. Angela Taylor, who is black. Court documents say Taylor wasn’t interviewed, either.

The lawsuit named numerous defendants including the St. Louis Police Department, the Board of Police Commissioners, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Daniel Isom, chief of police at the time of Taylor’s hiring.

The jury awarded $200,000 in actual damages against all of the defendants, and added punitive damages of $300,000 against Harris, $100,000 against Muxo and $20,000 against Isom.
Federal jury awards St. Louis officer $620,000 in racial discrimination suit

By Margaret Gillerman
Friday, May 30th, 2014
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis, MO

ST. LOUIS • A white police sergeant who is president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association was awarded $620,000 in a reverse racial discrimination suit Wednesday.

A federal jury made the award to Sgt. David Bonenberger, who had sued in January 2012. The civil suit alleged that he was passed over for a leadership post at the city Police Academy. It claimed that academy director, Lt. Michael Muxo, told Bonenberger he shouldn’t bother to apply for the assistant director opening. Muxo told him that the job was going to a black woman, the suit said.

Muxo told Bonenberger that a higher-up, Lt. Col. Reggie Harris, wanted a black woman and wanted to “bring color down to the academy,” according to the suit.

Bonenberger applied but was not called for an interview.
The suit named the police department, the Police Board of Commissioners, Mayor Francis Slay and various other officials as defendants. They were defended by the Missouri attorney general’s office. An attorney for the defendants declined to comment Wednesday night. The police board’s general counsel could not be reached.

A spokesman for the St. Louis Police Department said the Board of Police Commissioners would be briefed today on the outcome of the lawsuit during a closed executive session of the board.

“At that time, the board will discuss the lawsuit and make recommendations regarding the next course of action,” the department said in a statement. “The department is not at liberty to discuss personnel matters.”

The all-white jury was out for four hours Wednesday afternoon before returning a verdict.

The jury awarded $200,000 in actual damages against all of the defendants for intentional race discrimination and $420,000 in punitive damages. The punitive damages were $100,000 against Muxo, $300,000 against Harris and $20,000 against then-Chief Dan Isom. Harris and Muxo were found to have conspired to commit discrimination.

After the verdict, Bonenberger said he was relieved and felt vindicated.

“It has been miserable going through this for the last three years, and finally it’s come to the end,” Bonenberger said. “The jury has seen that evidence presented clearly indicated that I was discriminated against and they (the police department) conspired to cover it up.”

Bonenberger said he hoped no other police employee would have to go through this and that others would not be “intimidated by members of the command rank to stand up when they’re illegally discriminated against or harassed....Hopefully this sends a clear message that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated and those responsible for it will indeed be held accountable.”

Angela Taylor, a black woman, was selected for the job over Bonenberger and another white candidate. Bonenberger’s attorney, Lynette Petruska, of Pleban and Petruska, said the suit was not directed against Taylor.

“Dave feels bad she was brought into this,” Petruska said. “He likes and respects Sergeant Taylor. ...He was not trying to challenge anything Sergeant Taylor did. He was trying to stop racial discrimination at the department. The question becomes, what’s the department going to do about this?”

Bonenberger, a sergeant in the department’s sixth district, holds various instructor certifications, became a field training officer in 1997 and was an instructor and academy class supervisor from 2008-2009, the suit says. He was elected president of the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association last year.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Meeting Reminder

St Joseph's Church 401 W. 125th Street, NY, NY

Wednesday May 28, 2014 - 7:30pm
St. Joseph’s Church
401 W. 125 Street NY NY (Morningside Avenue – near E37/L40)

Up is down, common sense is banished, facts don’t matter, lies are celebrated, the truth is suppressed, equal opportunity is discriminatory, and uniformed members contend that reading comprehension and physical strength are unnecessary for firefighting (also that firefighting isn't all that dangerous and it doesn't matter who responds because fires eventually go out). Other than that, things are peachy keen.

Perhaps we should all just adopt a positive compliant attitude about these developments, as Nicholas Garaufis pines for.

Or...perhaps we shouldn’t. Perhaps we should continue fighting for equal treatment regardless of race or gender, and to maintain standards for hiring and promotion in the FDNY. Yeah, that sounds better. That’s what we’ll do then.

Come join us on the 28th, especially if you are a Probie or only have a few years on. Not all the news is bad, and if you resist the imposition of idiocy you can hold your head high.

Paul Mannix
President - Merit Matters

516-848-9847 cell

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Merit Matters on 125th Street

St Joseph's Church, 401 W. 125th Street, NY, NY

May 13th, 2014

We have scheduled our next meeting:

Wednesday, May 28th 2014
7:30 pm
St. Joseph’s Church
401 W. 125 Street N.Y., N.Y. (Morningside Avenue-near E37/L40)

Unfortunately, we will not be lacking for topics to talk about.

Fortunately, we will be talking about them. And strategizing. And taking action.

What does the settlement mean? Why was the Captain’s test postponed? How does the very favorable recent US Supreme Court decision regarding Michigan’s ban on the use of quotas in not only college admissions, but also public employment, effect us? These and other issues will be discussed, including any brought to our attention at the meeting.

As always, everyone is welcome at this meeting. As always, our opponents are especially encouraged to come and speak. We have never engaged in censorship of our opponent’s ideas; our attitude is, “Spread their word; it helps our cause”. The confidence we have in our positions means we don’t demand flyers be taken off bulletin boards or t-shirts be banned or the Constitutional protections regarding free speech be suppressed. Perhaps this is how we have become the most diverse group concerned with the fire department- by demanding equal treatment for all, valuing facts over petulant demands and emotion, and considering all perspectives.

Please join us May 28th.

Paul Mannix
President - Merit Matters

516-848-9847 cell

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WHY I’ll NEVER Apologize for my “White Male Privilege”

Tal Fortgang

Please see the link below for an article that has been gaining widespread attention.

There is a "status conference" occurring today (May 7th) in Nicholas Garaufis' courtroom (which I will be attending) regarding the Vulcan lawsuit and the issues surrounding it. Mr. Garaufis famously said that the FDNY is a "stubborn bastion of white male privilege", echoing the prejudice written about by this college student ("prejudice" is the proper word to describe the actions of any who "pre-judge" any group of people).

We often hear that we must have a discussion or conversation about race, but many times those who advocate this really just want to deliver a lecture. Merit Matters truly wants to have a discussion (as evidenced by our offers to go to Vulcan Hall for a debate, our Essay Contest, our invitation to anyone who disagrees with us to attend our meetings, our offers to go to any group's meetings...) but it will be two-way; we will not be lectured to, and consider the ongoing efforts to censor us as proof positive that the positions held by our opponents cannot stand up to scrutiny.

Enjoy the read.

Paul Mannix
President - Merit Matters