City report said RFD Captain used “extreme lack of judgment” by attending party where people mocked Juneteenth
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A city report concluded that Rochester Fire Department Captain Jeffrey Krywy must leave the service. Witnesses reported that the captain directed 14-year Rochester firefighter veteran Jerrod Jones to attend a party where attendees mocked Juneteenth and county officials.
The report from the city’s Department of Human Resources, obtained on Wednesday, comes after Jones announced that he’s suing the city and the fire department for discrimination because of the June 7 party.
“What I had to experience a month ago, it cut me very deeply,” Jones said.
The lawsuit describes a party at an East Avenue home that used old tropes like buckets of fried chicken to make fun of Juneteenth, a holiday to commemorate liberation from slavery. The suit also said there were photos of local politicians with stakes through them throughout the yard. Someone at the party impersonated Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart as a stripper.
Wednesday’s report from the city said that Captain Krywy used an “extreme lack of judgment” for two reasons. It said Krywy shouldn’t have attended a personal party while on duty and should have left when he saw that the theme of the party was political and encouraging racial stereotypes.
You can read the city’s full report here:
According to the city report, Krywy said he didn’t notice the racial stereotyping theme of the party. He saw photos of President Trump and local democratic officials but none of the photos that he saw were derogatory.
The captain said he didn’t see buckets of fried chicken or people mocking Juneteenth. He said he was told that the party was a “community engagement function” and it’s not uncommon for city employees to attend community events while on duty.
After the report concluded that Krywy should be terminated, Mayor Evans thanked the fire department investigators for addressing structural biases.
“The underlying issues that bring us to today were not created in the last eight months,” wrote Mayor Evans. “I thank Fire Chief Felipe Hernandez for his continued commitment to addressing the structural biases and cultural challenges within the RFD. We will share regular updates on our work to tackle these longstanding issues in the weeks to come.”
Jones’s attorney, Nate McMurray, wrote on Twitter that Krywy would presumably get his full pension because he retired before his termination. However, there is no confirmation on whether retiring vs. being fired would change the captain’s pension or other benefits.
Here is McMurray’s full statement:
“The mayor of Rochester put out a statement this morning saying the captain involved in the racist incident is retiring. Thus—presumably—full pension. Further, the Mayor says they’ve done an investigation. In other words, ‘All good.’ But it’s not all good. Here are the facts: He has yet to call my client—although he held a press conference at the same moment my client did at the same location on a different topic—why? The fire chief has also yet to call my client. There has not been an independent review of how this happened and who was involved. There are no concrete changes to guarantee it can never happen again. And my client remains at risk, subject to threats and a hostile workplace, just years away from his own well earned pension. The fact that this very limited and carefully crafted statement comes only after my client went public is troubling. Assuming the well intent of the mayor, he should understand that the people of Rochester demand more. And even the elected officials contacting me demand more. But here’s the good news. Numerous members of both the RPD and RFD have contacted me outraged that this event occurred. They want real change, not a quick sweep under the rug. This is an opportunity for the City of Rochester—after several years of division and pain—to come together for real change. Good can come of this, but specifically this what must be done:
- My client must be made whole—not disregarded for his courage
- We need an independent investigation. Who was at this party? What other first responders were there?
- Why—after this was reported—did your office and RFD command structure respond so slowly? We need changes.
- Where is the report on your investigation? Publish it.
- What elected officials were targeted at the party? Name them.
More about the lawsuit
Jones and his attorney Nate McMurray spoke about the lawsuit that described the party at a Thursday press conference at City Hall. The discrimination lawsuit is suing the city and Rochester Fire Department, not the people who threw the party.
Jones said he wants to see a change in the fire department that he loves.
“I decided to speak up today because I have two children that maybe one day will aspire to be firefighters and I don’t want them to have to experience what I experienced,” he said. “I wouldn’t want your kids to have to experience that.”
McMurray said that his client felt compelled to go to the party because it was the captain’s idea and they always travel as a team. Jones saw several other firefighters and first responders at the party.
According to the lawsuit, Jones believes he saw a long-time member of the Rochester Police Department at the party. RPD Chief David Smith launched an internal investigation on Thursday.
McMurray said that Jones’ fire commanders didn’t take his concerns seriously when he complained about the party.
“When Mr. Jones went to his commanders, his officers above him and he said—this is terrible. Can you address this? Can we handle this? They assigned him to work with the same captain the next shift,” McMurray said.
McMurray said that Jones was pressured by some firefighters and elected officials not to file the complaint. McMurray declined to comment on the names of the people who pressured Jones to stay silent.
McMurray said he will be interviewing people who were at the party and the investigation may lead to more disciplinary action.
General Order 4.1 of the Rochester Fire Department says “employees shall not engage in conduct on or off-duty, which has a tendency to impair public respect for the employee and, or the Department.”
The lawsuit listed the address of the party, which is the home of the Nicosia couple. Nicholas Nicosia is a dentist and member of the board of directors at Highland Hospital. Mary Nicosia is on the board of the Landmark Society of Western New York.
News10NBC spoke to one of the people who owns the home where the party took place and they did not want to comment.
Many elected officials spoke at the Thursday news conference to denounce the party. County Legislator Rachel Barnhart said she was appalled to hear about the depiction of her as a stripper by a woman in a red wig.
“When we dehumanize people we make it a lot easier to commit violence against them,” Barnhart said. “For example, reducing me to a sexual object as this party did, that was deliberate. It was to take away my mind, my voice, my credibility, my agency and my humanity.”
Barnhart thanked Jones for speakout out about the party. Jones said he hopes the lawsuit leads to changes in how the fire department addresses discrimination.
“Today I hope this is the last time we’ll have to address an issue like this in the Rochester Fire Department,” Jones said. “A department I love very deeply and that has done a lot for me.”
Responses to party
Both Nicholas and Mary Nicosia have been suspended from organizations that they worked with.
Highland Hospital said that it was appalled by the allegations against Dr. Nicholas Nicosia and said the actions described were against the hospital’s values. The hospital announced on Twitter that they asked for the resignation of Nicosia and he accepted the resignation.
“We understand the profoundly negative impact these allegations have made on our community, and we felt swift action was necessary to continue to fulfill our mission and values,” the hospital wrote in a series of Tweets.
Nicosia was a team dentist for the hockey team Rochester Amerks. The Amerks said in a statement that they have chosen to end Nicosia’s relationship with the team. The statement said:
“We have chosen to end Dr. Nicosia’s relationship with our team upon learning of recent allegations. We do not tolerate racism in any form and it has no place in our world. We urge all individuals to help end racism and choose love in all their interactions with others.”
The Landmark Society of Western New York said it was appalled by the allegations against Mary Nicosia and announced her suspension as a member of their board of directors. The statement said the actions described don’t align with the Landmark Society’s values.
The Rochester Fire Department said the internal investigation is over. The supervisor who was named in the complaint remains on suspension. A statement from RFD said:
“The disciplinary action was sent to the supervisor this week and the supervisor remains on suspension until the action has been received and accepted. This remains an active personnel matter, so we cannot comment further.”
The Nicosia family released a statement saying that they disagree with how they are being characterized. Nicholas Nicosia wrote:
“My wife Mary and I were surprised and disappointed about the allegations that have been made against us, and by the responses being posted on social media. We strongly disagree with how we are being characterized and are hopeful that the community will hold its judgment while we seek to clear our names. Highland Hospital has asked me to step down from its board of directors, and I have agreed to do so, so that I can focus on my efforts on restoring our reputations.”
We will update this story with any more information once it becomes available.
Donations from the Nicosia family returned
It’s the latest development after a Rochester firefighter filed a lawsuit, suing the city and the fire department.
Congressional candidate La’Ron Singletary said he asked his campaign team on Thursday to return $1,250 dollars he received from the Nicosias once he found out about the allegations.
Mayor Malik Evans received $250 from the Nicosias. His office says the Mayor had his campaign treasurer return the Nicosia donation immediately on Thursday night.
Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart said the $100 donation to her campaign was made five years ago. The account is now closed, but she’s donating the $100 to a local non-profit.
Len Morrell says his campaign returned a $1,000 contribution received earlier this year from the Nicosias.
The Nicosias have also donated to a lot of other politicians including Congressman Lee Zeldin and local judges.
Press conference at City Hall