A senior New York City firefighter has been promoted after he sued the FDNY claiming his career was stalled over letters he wrote more than a decade ago criticizing the department’s push for more black recruits.
Deputy Assistant Chief of Operations Michael Gala, 60, was promoted to Assistant Chief and received $95,000 plus $6,000 in backpay to resolve the suit he filed against the city in Brooklyn Federal Court last November, the New York Daily News reported Friday.
Gala’s case stemmed from an incident in May 2020, when he was forced to repeat the phrase ‘I am not the same man I was’ after writing a handful of highly-critical letters to the Chief Leader newspaper regarding the FDNY’s hiring practices back in 2007 and 2011.
Refusing to do so would have resulted in losing any chances of career advancement within the department, according to the lawsuit.
Pictured: Michael Gala, 60, was promoted and awarded over $100k in backpay and legal restitution after suing the FDNY for stalling his career over letters he wrote a decade ago
Gala, 60, was promoted to Assistant Chief last month and paid $6,000 in back-pay and another $95,000 in the resolution for the lawsuit he filed last November
The terms of the resolution required Gala to write a letter to clarify his old statements while expressing regret for the ways they were interpreted.
‘I understand some concerns recently arose from letters I wrote many years ago in the Chief-Leader,’ Gala wrote in the note last month.
‘I sought to add my voice to an important debate that was raging at the time: how to increase diversity in the FDNY without modifying hiring standards. I did not intend my letters to offend anyone or to denigrate the importance of diversity.’
‘My aim was to make clear that diversity could, and should, be achieved without sacrificing hiring standards. I regret that certain impertinent statements distracted from that point and caused anyone to question my commitment to diversity,’ Gala wrote following the lawsuit’s resolution.
In his original letters to the Chief Leader, Gala complained about the perils of being a white male firefighter and his perceived idea that minority opinions were valued more than his own.
‘These apparently are the men who have all the answers as to what’s wrong with the face of the New York City Fire Department,’ he wrote in one letter.
‘Simply stated, it is too white. It is not black enough … If you are a black firefighter in this department and you have an opinion, then speak up, brother. If you are a female firefighter, then you may speak up as well.’
Pictured: the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, where Gala filed his lawsuit against the FDNY last November
‘However, if you are a white male firefighter, keep your bigoted, racist opinions to yourself … God forbid someone started a white firefighters association.’
Gala’s old letters were written at a time when the department was under siege from the Vulcan Society, a group of black firefighters who filed a federal class action lawsuit against the department over discrimination back in May 2007 and ultimately won the case in 2012.
In the spring of 2014, both the FDNY and the Vulcan Society entered into ‘a settlement on the constitutional claims of intentional discrimination that awarded $98million for Black and Latino victims of discrimination, imposed new recruitment goals for the FDNY, enhanced education opportunities for firefighter applicants, and created the position of Chief Diversity Officer to ensure equal opportunity within the department,’ according to the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Gala claimed that the department’s decision not to promote him over his opinions regarding the FDNY’s hiring practices violated his first amendment rights.
‘Even if one disagrees with the plaintiff’s statements from years ago regarding the FDNY’s hiring standards … there can be no disagreement about their status as protected speech,’ his lawyers wrote in court documents.
The FDNY is expected to announce Gala’s promotion officially later this month, according to the Daily News.
The department did not return DailyMail.com’s request for comment on Friday.