Firefighter Robert “Bobby” Eustace, who had been the Uniformed Firefighters Association’s recording secretary, has won a special election to become its vice president, according to a Jan. 6 press release.
He prevailed with 3,146 votes to 2,146 for retired Firefighter Eric Bischoff, who had been the union’s Staten Island trustee.
Awkward Christmas Party
A UFA source said the contested battle for the number two spot had taken a toll internally. “Let’s say the Christmas party had the atmosphere of a middle-school dance where nobody knew how to talk to each other,” the source said.
“I have worked alongside Bobby during his tenure as Recording Secretary of the Uniformed Firefighters Association and know him to be nothing other than a tireless advocate for his fellow firefighters,” UFA President Gerard Fitzgerald said in a statement. “He is a great fit and poised for success in this new role, where his experience, knowledge, and passion will be an asset to advocating on behalf of our membership,”
Firefighter Vincent Speciale was elected to replace Mr. Eustace as recording secretary. The union’s regular election is scheduled in May. To run for union office, candidates need the signatures of 150 active members.
While retired UFA members can’t vote or sign nominating petitions, they can run for union office. The UFA has 20,000 active and retired members.
McGinnis to Pension Fund
In a phone interview, Mr. Fitzgerald said the special election was required when Firefighter LeRoy McGinnis vacated the number two leadership spot to become the Deputy Executive Director at the FDNY Fire Pension Fund.
In September 2016, the $15.2-billion fund gained independence from the City of New York.
According to Patrick Dunn, the fund’s executive director, Mr. McGinnis will be making $225,000 a year.
When it was disclosed four years ago that then-UFA President Steve Cassidy was selected by Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro as the first Executive Director of the newly independent pension fund, the union’s executive board immediately forced Mr. Cassidy to resign as president.
The board alleged he had violated the UFA constitution’s “turncoat” prohibition against members of the executive committee “accepting any salaried non-competitive appointed position with the City of New York…for a period of three years after leaving said office.”
Shot at Von Essen
That language was inserted into the constitution 24 years ago in an angry reaction to then-President Tom Von Essen leaving to become Fire Commissioner under Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Some union officials and rank-and-file members believed that he was being rewarded for going along with the Mayor in requiring Firefighters to take on emergency medical duties that had been handled solely by the Emergency Medical Service.
At the time Mr. Cassidy was forced out right after he gave notice, he denied his move to the fund was self-serving or violated the union constitution. “I am not working for the City of New York,” he said. “I am being paid by the Fire Pension Fund…I did not violate the [union] constitution and I know this is an important job.”
In March 2018, the union filed suit against him, claiming that leaving the presidency after 14 years to run the pension fund was such an egregious violation of the UFA constitution that he should be forced to repay $387,682, or three years of the annual salary he had earned.
Fall From Grace
Two months later, Mr. Cassidy was arrested for driving while intoxicated in his city-issued vehicle and was fired by Mr. Nigro from the top pension post.
That October, he pleaded guilty and lost his driver’s license for a year.
FDNY Lieut. Pat Quinn, who had been serving as Mr. Cassidy’s deputy at the fund, was named Acting Executive Director by Mr. Nigro. His appointment was subsequently made permanent.
In Mr. McGinnis’s role as Deputy Executive Director, Mr. Quinn wrote, he would be responsible for creating the pension fund’s web page.
“The Deputy Executive Director hiring process included a formal job posting, interviews by a review panel who also offered their recommendation, then I conducted final interviews and made my final selection,” Mr. Quinn wrote.
Suit Will Go On
Meanwhile, the UFA is continuing to press its lawsuit against Mr. Cassidy, according to Mr. Fitzgerald. Late last year, the UFA president also confirmed that the executive board had subsequently amended the union constitution, clearing the way for Mr. McGinnis to take the number two spot at the pension fund.
When asked to comment on the seeming incongruity of the union’s continuing to legally pursue Mr. Cassidy for violating the constitution while it amended it to clear the way for Mr. McGinnis, Mr. Fitzgerald declined.
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