Monitor Appointed to Oversee FDNY Recruiting

A federal judge Wednesday appointed a former federal prosecutor to serve as a special bias monitor for the FDNY to help ensure minorities in its ranks are treated fairly.

Mark S. Cohen, a partner in a Manhattan law practice since 2002 after a previous stint as an assistant US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was tapped by Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis as the court-appointed monitor.

The white-collar lawyer was selected from among a dozen candidates and will have substantial authority to oversee hiring, training, and promotions of minorities in the nation's largest fire department.

Georgia Pestana, a top city lawyer, said that although the city didn’t object to Cohen’s "candidacy for appointment" it "does not agree that any monitor is warranted" and plans to appeal.

The appointment comes a month after Garaufis ruled that broader judicial oversight of the FDNY is necessary because of the city’s "pattern and practice of discrimination against black firefighter candidates," as well as minorities already working for the department.

The judge offered a blistering critique of the city's inertia, and accused the Bloomberg administration of choosing "to ignore" the issue.

The case grows out of a 2007 lawsuit filed by the US Justice Department, with the aim of forcing the city to hire more minorities at an agency where white men make up 93 percent of the 11,000 firefighters in its ranks.

City officials initially balked at the scope of the special monitor's mandate, saying they objected to the sweeping nature of the court’s ruling, and arguing that the oversight will be too broad and intrusive.

Cohen's selection follows weeks of searching for a candidate to fill the monitor post from a field of about a dozen under consideration - including former judges, former prosecutors, litigators, arbitrators, mediators, former city officials, law professors and law-school deans.

However, Cohen's appointment was not proposed by the city, Vulcan Society of black firefighters or the Justice Department.

Republished with permission of The New York Post

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