Utica Fire Chief placed on leave following benefits request

Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks / WKTV News

Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks has reportedly been placed on administrative leave following a benefits request.

In the beginning of December of 2016 Brooks filed an application to receive payments after claiming he was suffering medical problems that stemmed from the response work he and other members of the Utica Fire Department did in New York City following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, according to WKTV News.

Brooks attorney said he applied for the General Municipal Law 207a benefits, which is designed specifically for firefighters to receive full payment after being injured on the job, even if they're unable to fully perform their duties.

After receiving the benefits application with all of Brooks medical records, the city of Utica then had 21 days to respond the city's Utica’s charter told WKTV News.

Brooks then got a lawyer involved when he didn't hear back from the city in the time frame provided.

Four months after submitting the application, Brooks allegedly received a letter from the city that said they never received his medical records and that they wanted to seek expert advice on the best method for an independent review of the records.

WKTV reports that now five months later, Brooks was notified he had been placed on a leave of absence and had to turn in his city-issued vehicle and cell phone by the close of business Friday.

In addition, Brooks was also allegedly told that he cannot publicly present himself as active chief of the Utica Fire Department in any way, including at Utica Common Council meetings.

A spokesperson for Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri told WKTV News that the only comment from his office would come from Utica Corporation Counsel William Borrill.

Borrill then provided WKTV with the following statement:

The city of Utica's position is that we do not comment on pending personnel matters. At the current time, Chief Brooks is on an indeterminate, non-disciplinary administrative leave.

In the meantime while Chief Brooks is on leave, Assistant Chief George Clark will assume all fire chief duties.

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