The City of Utica has released a list of answers to many questions residents of the city have posed in regards to the placement of Chief Russ Brooks on medical leave. The paid medical leave stemmed from the chief filing what is called a 207-a application. That and many more issues are explained by Community Affairs Specialist Gene Allen in the Q and A session listed below.

The list of questions and answers published below are copied exactly as they are written from an official release sent to WIBX from the City of Utica.

  1. Question:  What is a 207-a application and when did Chief Brooks file his?

Answer:  207-a is a benefit provided under the General Municipal Law for

Firefighters’ injured in the line of duty.  The benefits include full pay until the firefighter’s retirement age, medical benefits for the injury incurred and other contractual benefits pursuant to the Firefighters Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Chief Brooks filed an application for 207-a benefits on January 18th, 2017.

  1. Question: What is New York State Civil Service Law Section 72 and how is a determination made under the statute?

Answer:  Section 72 is the specific section under New York State Civil Service Law that provides for the placement of an employee on leave based upon their medical inability to fulfill their job requirements.  A Section 72 determination can be based upon medical evidence submitted by the employee, as well as, a review of all medical records by an independent physician.

 Section 72 is limited to medical conditions that are not job related.

  1. Question:  Why was Chief Brooks’ 207-a application denied and what is the basis for placing him on Section 72 Medical Leave?

Answer: The denial of the 207-a application and placement on Section 72 medical leave is based upon medical documentation provided by Chief Brooks, his doctors, and all medical reports he submitted.  It should be noted the City continues to assess Chief Brooks’ Section 72 leave, as it must, under the statute.

These records could be made public, if Chief Brooks is willing to release them.

  1. Question:  The health professional who reviewed Chief Brooks’ medical file is Warren Silverman, M.D..  Are his opinions always in favor of the City?

Answer: No.  Dr. Warren Silverman is an independent doctor who has rendered opinions

in favor of the City, as well as in favor of firefighters, and other employees regarding 207-a and 207-c claims (207-c claims are specific to Police Officers). 

  1. Question:  How long were Chief Brooks and the other eleven (11) firemen in New York City on or about September 11, 2001 and what were their roles.

Answer:  It is the City’s understanding Chief Brooks and eleven other firefighters     departed Utica for New York City at approximately 3:00 PM on 9/11 and assisted FDNY for a period of time by moving and staging equipment approximately a quarter of a mile from Ground Zero.  They returned to Utica the next day (Wednesday September 12th) at approximately 8:00 PM.

Therefore, UFD personnel assisted in this effort between 8-12 hours.

  1. Question:  Is it the City’s position Chief Brooks was not at the site of the World Trade Center on 9/11 acting in his capacity as a City of Utica employee?

Answer:  No. The City’s position has been consistent that Chief Books and the eleven other firemen were acting as City employees on 9/11.  Chief Brooks has referenced his 207-a denial from the Mayor claiming the City denied the application because he wasn’t acting within the scope of his employment when he was at 9/11.  This is not true.

The denial states he was not within the scope of his employment when he contracted his illness, a major distinction, meaning Chief Brooks did not develop leukemia from his work as a Utica Fireman at 9/11.   The City cannot disclose any further information until Chief Brooks releases his medical records.

  1. Question:  Chief Brooks has claimed under the Zadroga Act all of his medical bills for his Leukemia would be covered by the World Trade Center Health Organization and would “not cost the City a dime”.  Is this true?

Answer:  No. This is not true, and also misleading. Being accepted for treatment by the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP), does not automatically establish a local worker’s compensation case, including a 207-a claim. If Chief Brooks’ 207-a claim were accepted, the taxpayers of Utica would be primarily responsible for all medical bills and the World Trade Center Health Program would pay nothing. The independent doctor has advised there is no causal relationship between Chief Brooks’ work (8-12 hours) in the aftermath of 9/11 and his subsequent leukemia diagnosis. Thus, the claim was denied.

Moreover, in the event the WTCHP paid any expenses on behalf of Chief Brooks directly, the Zadroga Act provides for the WTCHP to seek reimbursement (subrogation) from the municipality.

For additional information on the Zadroga Act, please refer to Bulletin No. 046-56, Directive from Robert E. Beloten, Chair of New York State Workers Compensation dated August 2, 2013 and Policy and Procedures for Recoupment and Coordination of Benefits under the Zadroga Act issued on September 1, 2013 and revised on August 3, 2016.

  1. Question:  What is the cost of treatment for the type of leukemia Chief Brooks has?

Answer:  According to “…the per person lifetime cost of

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) treatment ranges from $147,000 for patients who started therapy in 2011 to $331,000 for patients who started therapy in 2014.  Patients who initiate therapy using oral targeted agents in the first line setting in 2016 will see a 310% increase in lifetime cost from $147,000 to $604,000…”  “… in contrast to other cancers, the over 500% projected increase in cost for CLL is driven by oral targeted therapies and prolonged treatment duration.”  This data is further substantiated by the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

  1. Question:  Did the City ever indicate that Chief Brooks’ placement on Section72 leave was based on his presence on 9/11 at the World Trade Center?

Answer:  No.  The placement of Chief Brooks on Section 72 leave was not based on any condition or illness he claims he received at the World Trade Center.

  1. Question: Has Chief Russell Brooks not been able to fulfill his job duties within the last three (3) months as the Fire Chief for the City of Utica?

Answer:  Yes.  There were approximately 90 work days from January 2nd to May 12th.  According to time sheets submitted and approved by Chief Brooks he was either sick or had to work in a limited capacity for 69 of these days.

  1. Question:  Is there a concern about the City’s liability at a fire scene due to the fact that the Chief has been placed on indeterminate, non-disciplinary administrative leave?

Answer:  No.  The chain of command is in full force and effect as there continues to be an Assistant Chief, four (4) Deputy Chiefs and 8 Captains and 22 Lieutenants to supervise fire scenes.

  1. Question:  Has Chief Brooks released all his medical and personnel records to the media so discussions may be had why the medical evidence supported the decisions made?

Answer:  No.  Although requested from his attorney James Roemer, Chief Brooks has refused to open his medical records and personnel files to the public for full and complete discussion to understand the issue.  Given the fact Chief Brooks has made this matter public, but won’t release relevant information/facts to the public, there is a mass amount of misinformation presently in the public domain.

  1. Question:  Has Chief Brooks released his medical and personnel records to the Common Council so they may review it in Executive Session and address questions they have?

Answer:  No.  Although requested from Attorney James Roemer there has been no acknowledgement of that request nor any indication from Chief Brooks as to whether he would or would not release said records to the Common Council.

  1. Question:  Has a law firm been retained to represent the City in this matter?

Answer:  No law firm has been retained and any legal work has been done by City attorneys at no additional cost.

  1. Question:  Was Chief Brooks denied benefits by the City of Utica then told to quit or retire?

Answer:  No.  Chief Brooks was placed on Section 72 medical leave and at no point did the City ever tell him to quit or retire.

  1. Question:  On May 12, 2017 when Chief Brooks was placed on indeterminate non-disciplinary administrative leave was his vehicle taken from him forcing   him to find a ride home? 

Answer:  No.  Chief Brooks was instructed to return the City owned vehicle by the close of business that day (4:30 p.m.).  The City informed Chief Brooks that Deputy Police Chief Noonan was in the office and available to bring him home immediately if he chose to leave the car at City Hall.

Additionally, there is a recorded transcript (Chief Brooks agreed to have it recorded) of the entire conversation.  If Chief Brooks would agree to release his records the City will provide a transcript of the recording so the public can read exactly what transpired.

  1. Question:  Was Chief Brooks’ City cell phone taken on May 12, 2017?

Answer:  Yes.  Chief Brooks’ City cell phone, as well as, all computer privileges and access into City owned buildings were terminated as is the protocol for anyone placed on leave.  The City owned vehicle and cell phone are considered assets of the City and cannot be used while someone is on medical leave as there could be a liability using City assets, such as driving a vehicle for personal use.

  1. Question:  Is Chief Brooks allowed to attend public safety meetings?

Answer:  Yes.  Chief Brooks can attend as a resident, however, cannot present himself as Fire Chief while he is on medical leave.

  1. Question:  Is Assistant Fire Chief George Clark the acting “Chief” and has his pay increased?

Answer:  No.  Chief Clark is the Assistant Chief who has assumed the duties of the Fire Chief pursuant to his assigned job description from Civil Service and pursuant to the Fire Department’s Book of Rules.  Assistant Chief Clark is not receiving out of title pay.

  1. Question:  Has a process of hiring a new Fire Chief begun? 

Answer:  No.  There is no vacancy for a Fire Chief.  Chief Brooks still holds that title.

  1. Question: Does the Mayor have to appoint a temporary Chief under Civil Service Law Section 64 while Chief Brooks is on Section 72 leave?

Answer: No. Civil Service Law Section 64 only directs what the procedure is if a temporary appointment is made, but it is not mandatory an appointment be made.  The Mayor is conducting an analysis to determine if a temporary appointment is needed and what the cost would be.

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