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Buffalo to pay $1.2 million to firefighters passed over for promotions

The City of Buffalo will pay a total of $1.2 million to a dozen white Buffalo firefighters who claimed they were passed over for promotion because of their race.

The $1.2 million settlement was approved Tuesday by the Buffalo Common Council and brings to a close a 2007 lawsuit that accused the city of illegally allowing two promotional lists to expire because minority firefighters had performed poorly on civil service exams.

The 12 Buffalo firefighters alleged that if the promotional lists had not been allowed to expire and instead had been extended – as had been historical practice – they would have received promotions within the fire department, according to papers filed by the city’s law department with the Clerk’s Office.

In 2007, former State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek ruled the city illegally passed over the 12 firefighters for promotions because of their race.

At the time, the judge also awarded $2.8 million to the 12 firefighters in back pay, pension benefits and damages for emotional distress.

On appeal, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court upheld Michalek’s ruling, but reduced the judgment to $1.6 million.

But the city’s law department ultimately negotiated a settlement of $1.2 million to end the matter, according to papers filed by the city’s law department with the Clerk’s Office.

Of the $1.2 million settlement, $550,000 will be payable immediately, and $650,000 will be payable in the future in individual amounts apportioned to each of the 12 firefighters for their share of the damages, the law department papers stated.

The settlement was approved during a special session of the Common Council on Tuesday because the matter was “time-sensitive,” said Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen.

Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Ball talked to each of the nine Council members about the claim before the special session, Pridgen said.

Mayor Byron W. Brown signed the settlement Tuesday after the Council approved it.

The lawsuit was filed after Brown took office, but the facts of the case date back to his predecessor, Anthony M. Masiello.

Michael J. DeGeorge, spokesperson for the city, said "We are satisfied that the matter has been resolved."

The 12 firefighters who reportedly stand to receive monetary damage awards are Mark A. Abad, Brad J. Arnone, David T. Denz, Timothy R. Cassel, Joseph P. Fahey, Timothy J. Hazelet, Peter F. Kertzie, Peter J. Lotocki, Eugene J. Margerum, Matthew S. Osinski, Thomas J. Reddington and Scott T. Skinner.

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