Utica 4th Ward Councilman Joe Marino had harsh words for Mayor Rob Palmieri on Friday night after the news broke that Fire Chief Russell Brooks had been forced to temporarily step down from his official duties.  "The actions by Mayor Palmieri appear unwarranted, unjust and underhanded---old-time Utica politics at its worst," said Marino in a statement released to the media.

Brooks learned on Friday morning that he was being placed on "nondisciplinary leave" when he was summoned to City Hall to meet with Mayor Palmieri.  He was then informed

The public deserves crystal-clear answers from the mayor -Marino

of the City's decision to place him on leave and was ordered to turn in his city-issued vehicle and cell phone by the end of the day.  Brooks says the action is in response to a benefits request which Brooks filed for in December of 2016 due to an illness he

Jeff Monaski, WIBX

contracted while acting as part of a Utica Firefighter contingency which traveled to New York City on 911 to assist with victim recovery and rescue after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. In September of last year, Chief Brooks disclosed to WIBX during an interview on the Keeler Show that he had contracted cancer from breathing in the dust at Ground Zero during 911. He said the World Trade Center Health Organization determined the cancer was related to the rescue efforts.

Watch the interview below of Chief Brooks, as he discloses his fight with cancer. The portion relating to 911 begins at the 26 second mark of the interview:

Chief Brooks told the Observer Dispatch that it was "perplexing," as he read from a letter that he had also received from the city.  He said the letter stated that he had not contracted his illness from 911 and if he had, that illness would have occurred as a result of his off-duty volunteer efforts and not as a City of Utica employee. Brooks claims he oversaw 11 Utica Firefighters that traveled to Ground Zero on behalf of the City of Utica.

Marino said the Mayor's actions are political and unwarranted.  "The public deserves crystal-clear answers from the mayor and they deserve them right now, as to why a 41-year public servant, battling a sickness connected to his heroic service on 9/11, would be removed from his post at all, while still very capable of handling his duties," said Marino.

Marino will be a guest on First News with Keeler Monday morning.

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