FDNY EMS manager fires back against discipline after questioning CAD changes
Carla Murphy’s attorney said her safety concerns with the CAD system led to a dispute with Deputy Commissioner Augier and Commissioner Kavanagh
By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — The only female FDNY manager in the ongoing ageism lawsuit against Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh was cast at a disciplinary hearing last week as an “entitled” employee “who went rogue” and began firing off unprofessional emails to department heads.
But Carla Murphy, who for 26 years has managed FDNY Emergency Medical Service’s computer-aided dispatch system, claims she’s a model staffer and was only hit with disciplinary charges after she questioned several dangerous moves made to the system authorized by Kavanagh and Deputy Commissioner JonPaul Augier.
“The only thing that changed was the management,” Murphy’s attorney Alain Massenna said at the disciplinary proceeding Wednesday at the city Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. “Murphy is the lone voice in the wilderness who was saying that ‘If we do this, the system will collapse.’”
Murphy, 56, is one of six current and former FDNY employees who claim they have been targeted by Kavanagh and her team “because they were at or near the age of 60,″ according to their lawsuit in Brooklyn Supreme Court. The plaintiffs claim they were harassed, maligned and ultimately demoted because they were too old in Kavanagh’s eyes.
At the Wednesday hearing, Murphy and her lawyers faced down 51 departmental disciplinary charges — including counts of sending unprofessional emails and violating the FDNY’s social media policy “by posting against the FDNY on Facebook and LinkedIn,” said Anthony Bruno, an associate disciplinary counsel for the Fire Department.
Other charges involve going outside the chain of command by adding Augier to her emails and issues with her time sheets.
At 40, Kavanagh is one of the city’s youngest commissioners. She’s also the first woman to be an FDNY commissioner.
Murphy has managed the EMS computer-aided dispatch system since 1997. The system organizes 911 calls and sends ambulances to medical emergencies throughout the five boroughs. The system also recommends triage techniques and supplies real-time maps so ambulances can get to a location quicker.
At the disciplinary hearing, departmental prosecutor Bruno said Murphy had been overseeing the CAD system for so long “she started feeling entitled.”
“Despite supervisors’ attempt to supervise her, she repeatedly aborted their efforts,” Bruno said.
But Massena claimed that what Murphy’s bosses saw as pushback was done in favor of New Yorkers.
Murphy’s insistence on raising safety concerns, which were rooted in deep understanding of the computer-aided dispatch system, led to friction with Deputy Commissioner Augier and Commissioner Kavanagh, Massena said.
In the Brooklyn Supreme Court ageism lawsuit, Murphy claims her friction with Augier and other supervisors began in 2019 when she began raising concerns about changes to the computer dispatch system she believed were “ill-advised and created a safety risk for first responders.”
Murphy says she was worried about the department’s push to make the EMS dispatch system work in concert with a new firefighter dispatch system, “activating an unstable temporary load balancing feature” in the EMS computer dispatch system that she feared would hurt the department’s responses to emergencies, and plans to upgrade the computer systems to Windows 10 in just two months, the lawsuit states.
“As far as I can tell this is no one’s priority and no one is at all interested in the fact that the CAD system’s biggest problem is not being addressed,” she wrote in one email, according to the suit.
The problem, she wrote, was computer network issues that shut down the computer aided dispatch system. “In five years we’ve had 18 unplanned outages, 17 were caused by network issues or network related latency,” Murphy warned department officials. “We have had more network related downtime in the past year than in the prior five years combined.”
In the suit, Murphy claimed she “suffered a series of adverse actions in retaliation for not ‘going along’ with unsafe conditions.”
She also accused her supervisors of failing to “take the criticality of the EMS CAD system into account on numerous projects” but for also “excluding experts from important meetings where their input is necessary,” the lawsuit notes.
The retaliation she suffered including her supervisors’ demand she no longer work from home, even though she has an ongoing medical issue — Murphy contracted cancer working at the World Trade Center pile after the Sept. 11 attacks. She also said the department suddenly moved her offices from one building to another without consulting her.
Then, in December 2021, Murphy learned that the department was actively seeking her replacement. A month after that, she was told she would no longer be involved in a “crucial EMS CAD upgrade project,” the lawsuit states.
“[My job] was ultimately given to a younger male employee who did not have my experience or technical expertise,” Murphy said in an affidavit for the lawsuit.
Murphy’s allegations about the EMS CAD system are “without merit” an FDNY spokeswoman said.
“The current EMS CAD is the oldest public safety CAD in the city, and that’s why the department started the process of replacing it with new technologies that meet the evolving needs of EMS operations,” FDNY spokeswoman Amanda Farinacci said.
The same executive team that led the development of the FDNY’s Fire Computer Aided Dispatch system in August 2021, is handling the upgrade, Farinacci said.
“The delivery of the Fire CAD system was a tremendous success and one of the greatest technological advancements in FDNY history,” she said. “The FDNY expects the same of the EMS CAD, and the legacy system will continue to be well supported and meet the needs of our EMS professionals who keep our city safe during medical emergencies.”
Three witnesses called at Murphy’s FDNY disciplinary hearing confirmed some of her heated email exchanges with her superiors. The witnesses also said that, once her job was advertised, Murphy recommended they apply for the spot.
A disciplinary investigation into Murphy began in the spring of 2022, an FDNY source with knowledge of the case said. She was hit with disciplinary charges in August, but new ones were added that December, the source said.
Murphy is still employed by the FDNY, although the department is seeking her termination with the disciplinary charges.
The hearing is expected to continue next month. Murphy said she’s looking forward to get to the heart of the issue.
“We have been waiting a long time for this. The emotional and physical toll on my health has been really severe,” she told The News. “It’s a huge relief to finally get a chance to talk about this. I appreciate having the opportunity to defend myself in a public hearing.”
The lawsuit against Kavanagh was filed in March, about a month after FDNY Assistant Chiefs Michael Gala, Joseph Jardin and Fred Schaaf were all demoted to deputy chief by Kavanagh.
Their demotions sparked a mass protest by FDNY chiefs who criticized Kavanagh and asked to be demoted in rank and moved out of department headquarters.
So far, Kavanagh hasn’t signed off on any of the demotion requests, FDNY officials said.
Farinacci declined to comment about Murphy’s hearing, claiming the department doesn’t speak on ongoing personnel matters.