Deutsche Bank Fire InterviewsThere are several simultaneous investigations proceeding as a result of the fatal fire at the Deutsche Bank Building on August 18, 2007. The Fire Department Safety Battalion is nearing conclusion of its initial interviews. However, the Bureau of Fire Investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the New York State Attorney General's Office are still investigating. We also believe that an investigation may be started by the N.Y.P.D. Furthermore, both NIOSH and PESH always investigate fatal fires. Members who are asked to give interviews or statements about their knowledge of the fire or the conditions in the fire building before the fire should be aware of their rights. Our counsel advises:
1. Pursuant to the Individual Rights' provision under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, duly authorized representatives of the Fire Department (which would include the Safety Battalion and BFI) may interview members "during reasonable hours."
- If a member is off duty and a witness, he is to be compensated for the time spent and two hours of travel time at the rate of time and one half. In the unlikely event that any member is the subject of an investigation and off duty, he is to be compensated for the time spent and two hours travel time at a straight time rate. Before an interview commences, the member must be advised as to whether he is a witness or a suspect (subject).
- If a member is a witness only (as we anticipate for all interviews), the Department has always permitted union representation at the interviews. No member should consent to an interview in connection with the Deutsche Bank fire without first notifying the union.
- If a member is a suspect (subject), he still must answer questions relating to the performance of his duties and is entitled to have an attorney with him. Certainly if a member is advised that he is a suspect (subject), he must ask for an attorney before consenting to an interview.
2. With respect to interviews by the District Attorney's Office, the Office of the Attorney General or the N.Y.P.D., no member is obligated to speak to any of those agencies. However, at least with respect to the District Attorney's Office and the Attorney General's Office, the UFA recommends cooperation with those agencies. However, before any member is interviewed by them, he/she should ask to have an attorney present to make sure that his/her rights are properly protected.
- Once again, we urge that all members who are asked to give interviews to ANYBODY call your Trustee before agreeing to the interview.
Joseph A. Miccio
Uniformed Firefighters Association