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Former Utica Mayor Weighs In on Fire Chief’s ‘Forced Leave’

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Former Utica mayor Tim Julian is reacting to the ‘nondisciplinary leave’ Fire Chief Russ Brooks was placed on last week.

”This is the guy you want leading the fire department,” Julian said of Brooks Monday on WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning, who in December filed a request for benefits with the city.

Brooks says that request is tied to his cancer battle stemming from the toxic dust he breathed-in at Ground Zero as he and other Utica firefighters traveled to New York City to assist in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

That request was filed in December, he said. This past Friday, Brooks says he was called to City Hall where Mayor Robert Palmieri – with two attorneys present – informed him of his ‘forced’ leave.

Julian believed the decision is a critical misstep by Palmieri, and speculated the motivation for it was personal.

”From the Mayor’s seat I had my fair share of fights,” defending his stances the city’s share of sales tax, a downtown parking garage and other issues, as doing his job as an advocate for Utica taxpayers. However, Julian said of Brooks’ removal, ”these arguments seem to cut from a different cloth, these seem to be more on a personal basis…there’s no place for that.”

Further questioning the move, Julian said he believes Utica wouldn’t be on the hook from any of Brooks’ medical bills because they are already being covered by World Trade Center Health Organization.

As to his commitment to the city and public service, the former mayor pointed to the recent fuel spill in New Hartford, which was ‘handled flawlessly’, Julian said. ”Russ Brooks was the incident commander on that.”

And, recalling the morning of September 11th, 2001, Julian said:

”The state, through their mutual aid system, started to immediately reach out across the state to find out what equipment, what man power was available. We volunteered to go down – when I say volunteered I mean among the guys in the department, they picked and chose who wanted to go down…because they couldn’t bring everybody, everybody wanted to go”, he said.

On another occasion, ”I witnessed him run into a burning house. He heard someone was inside, showed up on the scene and ran into a burning house without his gear and did bring someone out this him,” Julian said of Brooks.

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Video: Fire Chief Russ Brooks gives his take on his force leave from UFD

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