NY Firefighter Wants Job Back
Glen Merkitch was an honored and decorated member of the FDNY until he voluntarily resigned on March 4, 2013 after testing positive for cocaine. More than two years later, he is ready to join his fellow firefighters again and is fighting to be reinstated.
A Career Ending Decision
Using cocaine was not something Merkitch made a habit of and he certainly never thought that failing a cocaine drug test would be the catalyst that would end his career as one of New York’s bravest. However, an emotional visit in August of 2011 from the son of his best friend, who tragically lost his life on September 11, 2001 along with 2,606 others, sent him into a dark tailspin he was unprepared for. It was after that visit that Merkitch decided to do cocaine in an attempt to dull his pain. Little did Merkitch know that his decision would have career ending repercussions that he would still be battling against to this day.
His career crumbled around him shortly before he was to receive another commendation for bravery for his role in a 2011 night dive rescue at the FDNY Medal Day ceremony. Unfortunately, he was selected to submit to one of many random urine drug tests, which he failed thanks to the cocaine still in his system. Merkitch has always firmly claimed that his cocaine use was an “isolated” incident, a fact that had no impact on the FDNY zero-tolerance drug policy. His award was revoked by the FDNY Chief of Department as a result.
Embarrassed and ashamed of his lapse in judgment, Merkitch thought it best to hang up his fire hose rather than subject his family and the FDNY from having to endure a disciplinary trial. An action that he stands by in a petition for reinstatement that was submitted to the Brooklyn Supreme Court that states, “In order to spare himself, his family and the FDNY the time, expense, labor and stress of a disciplinary trial, when the penalty of termination was essentially pre-ordained, (Merkitch) resigned on March 4, 2013. He sincerely regrets and apologizes for his inappropriate conduct and the embarrassment it has caused the FDNY and his family. Understandably, working there was very difficult.”
The Road to Reinstatement
Merkitch felt ready to return to his calling as a firefighter in February 2014. He drafted a letter detailing his many commendations and exemplary record and sent it off to FDNY Commission Daniel Nirgro.
Unmoved by his plea, Commissioner Nigro denied Merkitch’s request for reinstatement in June and stated in a written response, “regardless of [his] personal feelings about the rights and wrongs of the situation, the laws and regulations governing the FDNY preclude me from reinstating someone who resigned while facing disciplinary charges.”
Commissioner Nigro’s decision left Merkitch scratching his head after EMT and the son of former Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, was reinstated after quitting in March of 2013 as well. Cassano didn’t fail one of the departments drug tests, though. Instead he used his Twitter account to spew racists comments, such as, “I like Jews about as much as hitler #toofar? NOPE” and “MLK could go kick rocks for all I care, but thanks for the time and a half today.” Needless to say, Cassano’s reinstatement was met with anger as many firefighters and EMT’s protested the decision.
Merkitch feels as though there is a clear “double standard” at play and that Commissioner Nigro is simply choosing to ignore his “explicit and sole authority” to have him reinstated. “It’s certainly not clear why Commissioner Daniel Nigro had the discretion to permit the reinstatement of Joseph Cassano, but claimed he lacks that discretion for Merkitch,” the petition continued.
For now, Merkitch is left in limbo as he awaits his day in court this month where the ultimate decision over whether or not he gets his job back will be in the hands of the city’s law department.
If you’re struggling to cope with an emotionally taxing life event and have turned to drugs to soothe your pain, don’t leave yourself vulnerable to losing your job, family or freedom, too.