Thirteen white Buffalo firefighters were granted the right Wednesday to sue the city for financial damages and possibly belated promotions over what State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek found to be the race-based premature cancellation of civil service promotion lists.
Michalek ruled that the city clearly allowed the promotional lists to expire “as a result of a race-based or race-conscious decision” because of concern over a suit filed several years ago in U.S. District Court by black firefighters.
Andrew P. Fleming, chief attorney for the white firefighters, called the decision “a win for men who put their lives on the line every day.” He said the next step will be a meeting with the judge to schedule discovery (evidence—gathering) on financial damages, to be followed by a trial.
In the state court case, Fleming challenged the premature canceling of Fire Department promotion lists in 2005 and last year.
Those canceled civil service lists would have made his clients eligible for promotions to supervisory positions. But Leonard Matarese, the city’s commissioner of human resources, voided them, which Fleming claims was illegal.
Fleming cited sworn testimony by Matarese that the eligibility lists were canceled prematurely for racial reasons.
Fleming said the quashing of the promotional lists cost his 13 clients “various economic opportunities, including increased salary and benefits.”