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3 veteran officers are finalists for Lockport fire chief, as prospect who sparked suit finishes fifth on test

LOCKPORT – The next Lockport fire chief will be one of three veteran officers, as the young officer whose candidacy sparked a lawsuit failed to score high enough on a civil service exam.

Luca Quagliano, the municipal training officer who was allowed to take the test after the Fire Board asked the city Civil Service Commission to change the rules, finished fifth on the test.

Only the top three finishers may be interviewed for the post, according to state law.

Those finishers are Assistant Chief Michael B. Seeloff, Capt. Thomas E. Lupo and Capt. Patrick K. Brady.

Quagliano came in one spot behind Assistant Chief Matthew O. Streckewald and one ahead of Assistant Chief Patrick F. Costello.

The Fire Board will hold interviews once Chief Thomas J. Passuite announces the date of his expected retirement, which he has said will likely come by the end of the year.

The Fire Board has the sole power to choose the chief, as it does for all promotions in the department. The mayor and the Common Council have no direct say, although the mayor appoints the board, and one of its members is always an alderman.

Seeloff said he doesn’t think that having the top score gives him any edge.

“It only guarantees you to get in for the interview,” Seeloff said. “There’s so many variables that go into the interview beyond the test.”

Seeloff scored 86 percent on the Feb. 1 exam, which was devised and scored by the state Civil Service Division. Lupo also scored 86, but Seeloff received 6 extra points for additional seniority, while Lupo picked up only 4 seniority points.

Brady scored 85 percent plus 4 seniority points. Streckewald scored 78 percent plus 6 seniority points, Quagliano 80 plus 3, and Costello 73 plus 6.

The Lockport Professional Fire Fighters Association filed a grievance over last July’s change in who was eligible for the chief exam. The union says that it has a memorandum of agreement with the city that limits the field to assistant chiefs.

The city sued the union in an effort to get a court ruling that would prevent the union from taking the matter to a state arbitrator whose decision would be binding.

On April 10, State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. scheduled a hearing for Aug. 7 on why the rules were changed and stayed the arbitration process in the meantime.

Deputy Corporation Counsel David E. Blackley said the grievance should have been filed against the Civil Service Commission, not the city itself.

“I thought it was moot the minute they walked in because they sued the wrong party for arbitration,” Blackley said Tuesday.

Kevin W. Pratt, the union president, said the case will continue even though Quagliano is out of the running for chief.

“The reason we filed a grievance was the violation of the written word,” Pratt said. “It has nothing to do with the individual.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com