FDNY Chief Bumped Amid ‘Abusive Behavior’ Accusations

 FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard at dedication ceremony for Firefighter William Tolley in Ridgewood Queens in September 2018. Eagle photo by Todd Maisel.

FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard at dedication ceremony for Firefighter William Tolley in Ridgewood Queens in September 2018. Eagle photo by Todd Maisel.

By Todd Maisel

The second-in-command at the Fire Department of New York was placed on modified duty and reassigned pending an internal investigation for allegations of “abusive behavior” toward the highest-ranking female firefighter.

The month-long review against Chief of Department James Leonard was announced on Thursday after a “falling out” with First Deputy Commissioner Laura Kavanagh and “told his staff not to talk with her about anything,” a law enforcement source told the Eagle.

“He was always a good chief, and he was better off fighting fires,” one official said. “He did a decent job, but he was screaming at people – and while you can disagree, you can’t just go flying off the handle.”

Kavanagh was senior advisor in Mayor de Blasio’s election campaign and was promoted as one of FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro’s top advisers.

Leonard was respected in the field, but some firefighters say he was particularly difficult with some command chiefs. “Some of the uniformed officers union are not going to be unhappy to see him go,” the source told the Eagle.

Leonard was appointed by Nigro in 2014, is the highest-ranking uniformed member of the Department, overseeing 15,000 uniformed Firefighters and EMS personnel.