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Deputy fire commissioner stepping down to move into unionized post

The Buffalo Fire Department has lost it second deputy commissioner in two months with the resignation of Kevin D. Peterson, who is dropping back into the union ranks as he prepares to retire from the department.

Peterson, 49, confirmed on Wednesday he is no longer a deputy and that he voluntarily reverted to his civil service rank of battalion chief. The 29-year Fire Department veteran said he plans to retire in six months, and will qualify for a better retirement package as a unionized battalion chief than if he remained an appointed deputy commissioner.

As a member of the firefighters’ union, Local 282, Peterson upon retirement will qualify for accrued sick time and vacation days benefits that he would not receive as a political appointee. By remaining six months, he’ll qualify for a better benefits package than if he leaves sooner, he said.

“To qualify for the benefits, I need a certain amount of time I must come back to 282,” he said, referring to the firefighters union.

Peterson joined the department in 1987. He was appointed deputy in April 2014. Peterson was head of the department’s Hazardous Materials Unit. As deputy, Peterson replaced firefighter Vincent R. Gugliuzza, a onetime union leader who was appointed deputy in 2010, but forced out of the position four years later by the Brown Administration, which cited “overtime and other issues” under Gugliuzza’s watch.

As deputy commissioner, Peterson had a 2015 base pay of $113,474, and his overall pay for the year was $121,382. As battalion chief, the base drops to $87,303 although he will qualify for overtime not available to him as a deputy.

Peterson said he appreciates that Mayor Byron W. Brown gave him the opportunity to work as a deputy commissioner.

“I enjoyed it,” Peterson said. “It was a worthwhile experience.”

Peterson is the second of Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield’s two deputies to leave their posts within the past two months.

Joseph J. Tomizzi resigned the position in late November, and reverted to a civil service rank of firefighter. Tomizzi, 50, is currently under investigation by state and federal authorities for allegedly abusing his authority to conduct criminal background checks. Tomizzi has been on vacation since his Nov. 24 resignation from the deputy post, and is scheduled to return to work Thursday. He’ll be assigned to the alarm office, according to Fire Department sources. Tomizzi joined the department in 2000.

Brown said the search for new deputies will begin at the end of the week.

“The fire commissioner at the end of the week will post both of the deputy positions, and members of the department qualified will be able to apply,” Brown said. “We plan on casting a wide net.”