ASSISTANT CHIEF McCABE RESTORED.

ASSISTANT CHIEF McCABE RESTORED.

ON Tuesday last the Court of Appeals handed down a decision dismissing the appeal in the case of the fire commissioners against Assistant Chief John McCabe. It will be remembered that Assistant Chief McCabe was dismissed from the department by Commissioner Purroy, for having sent out the “three sixes” for a fire that occurred in Harlem on July 5 of last year. This was a very extensive fire, burning over a large area of ground, and Chief McCabe, who was in command, fearful that it would sweep away several blocks, sent out the special call for additional apparatus. This brought to the scene most of the apparatus above Fourteenth street, and it was claimed that in doing so he left a large portion of the city unnecessarily exposed. It was understood, however, from the first that his offense was a political one and that President Purroy had long been seeking an excuse to take his scalp, McCabe being a Republican and Purroy a factional Democrat. It was scarcely thought at the time, in the face of the evidence taken, that Commissioner Purroy would dare to dismiss a zealous officer of long experience when his error, if any had been committed, was on the side of safety, but there are no lengths to which politicians of the Purroy stripe will not go when an opponent’s place is wanted. He accordingly dismissed McCabe, w’ho at once appealed to the courts for reinstatement, and after the facts had all been heard his reinstatement was ordered. The court clearly intimated that his dismissal was arbitrary, unjust and without cause. Appeal was then taken to the General Term, which sustained the decision of the lower court, and in terms even more emphatic denounced the action of Commissioner Purroy in dismissing McCabe. From this decision, appeal was taken to the Court of Appeals, and that court now dismisses the appeal with costs, which the city will have to pay. McCabe is thus reinstated as assistant chief of the department, and the several officers who have been promoted to fill the vacancies occasioned by his removal will have lo retire to their ordinary positions and restore the increase of salary which they have received by reason of their illegal promotion.

This decision is one full of interest, not only to all the firemen of the country, but to every officer in municipal employ. It says to them, virtually, that they cannot be removed on political grounds on trumped up charges, and that so long as they do their duty promptly and efficiently, their positions are secured to them. Commissioner Purroy dismissed McCabe on the ground that he had blundered, but as the highest courts have now decided that* he did not blunder, but that his dismissal by Purroy was a blunder, the question is, should not Mr. Purroy be called upon by the Mayor to resign his position as commissioner ? A more egregious or demoralizing blunder was never made by a department officer, for it was an intimation to the entire force that unless they are in accord with the president of the board in politics, excuse would be sought to secure their removal The result of this decision has been most demoralizing to the force, as we have pointed out in previous articles in these columns. The press and the general sentiment of the public were opposed to Commissioner Purroy in this matter and the following, extracted from an editorial article in The Tribune, thoroughly expresses the public sentiment:

THE EMPIRE LIFE-SAVING NET IN USE.

The Court of Appeals decision reinstating Chief McCabe of the fire department is in effect a double and merited rebuke to the fire commissioners. They ostensibly removed the chief for calling out too many engines to a dangerous fire, which started on the night of July 5, 1886. In reality McCabe was removed for political reasons. If he erred in sending out the alarm known as three sixes it was a mistake on the side of safety. The punishment inflicted by instigation of Commissioner Purroy was excessive and preposterous, and against the judgment of Commissioner Croker. If McCabe had not been a Republican who voted and worked against Purroy’s candidate for sheriff, there would have been no danger of his removal. That was the generally expressed sentiment of the community. But with that dogged obstinacy common to political “bosses,” who feel themselves above the people, Purroy persisted in his determination to remove McCabe. When the General Term of the Supreme Court unanimously ordered the reinstatement of the chief, Purroy still declined to comply. In a most unwarrantable manner he put the city to the expense of an appeal to the court of last resort. This effort to use the fire department for personal and political ends has cost the taxpayers over $10,000. It has at least had one good result, in making it plain that the courts will not sustain the removal of firemen for political reasons. If justice were done, Purroy would not only be compelled to pay the expense of this litigation, but he would be removed from office. It was no mistake of judgment on his part, but a deliberate attempt to use the department for political ends. The threat circulated by Purroy’s friends that McCabe will find his old position an unpleasant one is further evidence that Purroy should be removed. Fortunately, the term of the commissioner who voted with him has already expired.

At the time of the removal of McCabe, and when public sentiment was thoroughly aroused against Purroy, the papers teeming with denunciations of his arbitrary course, there were issued circulars denouncing McCabe, and endeavoring to destroy his reputation. These circulars were sent out broadcast through the city and to the fire departments of the country, and it has been very positively asserted that they emanated from the headquarters of the fire department. They contained many false and malicious statements, and we have no doubt that McCabe would be justified in bringing an action for slander against the authors and distributors of these circulars. What, if anything, will be done by the commissioners to remove the injustice that has been done to McCabe by the publishing of this document, remains to be seen. It was certainly a most cowardly attack, and had it emanated from any other source could not have failed to have injured McCabe’s reputation as a fireman, that it has taken years of faithful service for him to establish. It remains now for the commissioners to restore McCabe to active duty in accordance with the order of the court, but it is intimated that such was not the purpose of Purroy, or at least that he will endeavor to make life a burden to McCabe so long as he remains in the department. Commissioner Croker, who opjx>sed the removal of McCabe, will be looked to to see that in future justice is done to him.

ASSISTANT CHIEF McCABE RESTORED.

ASSISTANT CHIEF McCABE RESTORED.

IN July last, Assistant Chief John McCabe was summarily dismissed from the fire department by Commissioner Purroy for alleged incapacity in the management of a fire that occurred in Harlem on the 5th of July. It will be remembered that this fire was a very extensive one, threatening to become a general conflagration. Chief McCabe was in charge, and while the fire was raging at its utmost, seeming to threaten the destruction of adjoining blocks, he sent in the “ three sixes,” which is a special call for additional apparatus. This took from their quarters most of the engines and trucks lying north of Fourteenth street. Before they arrived at the scene of the fire, however, the conditions had changed, the roofs of the burning buildings having fallen in, and there was no occasion for their use; so they were turned immediately back to their quarters. It was claimed at the tirrte by some that it was a mistake on the part of Chief McCabe to have sent in the “ three sixes,” thus uncovering so large a portion of the city during the celebration of the national holiday. Charges were preferred against him, and he was summarily dismissed by the votes of Commissioners Purroy and Smith, Commissioner Croker being absent from the city. Chief McCabe at once applied to the court for restoration, and, after some seven months’ delay, the case has been heard, the decision of the commissioners overruled, and the restoration of Chief McCabe ordered. Elsewhere, we give the substance of the decision of the court. While the decision was given by Judge Brady, it was concurred in by Judges Van Brunt and Daniels.

While it was understood at the time of McCabe’s dismissal that it was instigated through political motives, he being a Republican and Commissioner Purroy a Democrat, and the case may have been said to have assumed a personal character as between McCabe and Purroy, the decision, however, is based upon general principles, and contains a declaration that cannot but be of value to all firemen throughout the country. It, in substance, declares that, where an officer charged with important dutks exercises his best judgment in the discharge of those duties, if he should make.an error in judgment, it does not constitute a criminal offense subjecting him to dismissal from his employment, but it is of such minor importance that its punishment can be satisfied by a much less ];enalty. The court substantially holds that it was shown at the trial that McCabe was an able, competent officer of many years’ experience, that it was an open question as to whether the sending of “ three sixes ’’ was an error of judgment or not; but, even granting that it was an error, it was not such a mistake or blunder as to call for so severe a penalty. While the legislature, in enacting the laws creating the New York Fire Department, undertook to throw around the uniformed force the protection of law, providing that no one of them shall be dismissed except after trial and conviction upon charges preferred against him, this is the first time that the courts have interfered to declare the responsibility of an officer within the limitations of the law and the rules governing the department. The rules require an officer at all times to exercise his best judgment, and, having done this, the court maintains that he is free from blame. In this instance, the court must have been thoroughly convinced of McCabe’s good intentions, for its declarations are very positive—this, too, in £ice of the fact that the courts are prone to strain a point at all times, in order to sustain the administrative officers of the city government. But, in a case of this kind, where such officer has ex ceeded his powers and, in so doing, inflicts a great personal wrong upon a subordinate, the court seems scarcely able to restrain an expression of indignation at such high-handed proceedings. The value of this decision to the firemen, not only of this department, but in the entire country, can scarcely be estimated. It is the declaration of an important principle in their practice, and cannot fail to bear good fruit in maintaining the rights of the men in uniform. Fire commissioners come and go; they are but temporary officers, holding their brief authority at the will of an appointing power. They are not members of the regular force; they are simply administrative officers—the executive functions being vested solely and exclusively in the uniformed force. Yet these ephemeral commissioners exercise the most summary and arbitrary powers over the uniformed force in the administration of the affairs of the department. They have it in their power, and do exercise unjust discrimination, and, at times, great injustice, against which the men are powerless. The commissioners seem to forget that, while their tenure of office is but temporary, the firemen are, so to speak, enlisted for life; the fire service is to them a life business. Upon it they depend for their subsistence and the subsistence of their families. They are entitled to such protection as the laws and the courts can give them, and it is good to see that such high authorities as have signed the McCabe decision are prepared to see justice done to the members of the uniformed force.

When the case of McCabe was being tried before the commissioners, this journal was very vigorous in its denunciations of the arbitrary exercise of power displayed by Commissioner Purroy. The whole responsibility for the dismissal of McCabe rests upon him, for, while Commissioner Smith concurred in the decision, it is well known that he is but the shadow and echo of Commissioner Purroy, put into power for the sole purpose of making Purroy allpowerful, and relegating Commissioner Croker to a position of “ innocuous desuetude.” It is understood that he was very much opposed to the dismissal of McCabe, but, being absent from the city, had no voice in the matter, and, even had he been here, his voice would have been overruled by the all-powerful Purroy, who delights in the exercise of his indomitable will. A greater outrage than the dismissal of McCabe was never perpetrated upon a faithful deserving public officer. It is reported that Commissioner Purroy has given instructions to have the case carried to the Court of Appeals. Some higher authority that the commissioner should interpose to prevent this, for there is not one chance in a thousand that the judgment of the lower court will be set aside by the Court of Appeals. The city I as already been subjected to a large expense in the prosecution of this case, and it will be a needless further expense to carry the case to a higher court. McCabe will eventually unquestionably be restored to his position of second assistant chief of the fire department, and those other officers who have been promoted to the vacancies occasioned by his removal must be provided for in some other way. His reinstatement carries with it back pay for the seven months that he has been off duty, and for such time as he may remain suspended, together with the costs of the suit. To carry it still further would be not only needless, but absolutely cruel. The press of the city were as vigorous as we were in denouncing this outrage when it was perpetrated, and is now equally unanimous in applauding the righteous decision whereby McCabe was restored—not that they are specially interested in McCabe, but because it is the enunciation of a principle of the greatest importance to all subordinate officers. Mr. Purroy might very gracefully accept this decision and make the best of it. All that he can do, by any possibility, is to prolong the agony for a time longer, with the assured certainty of ultimate defeat if the case goes to a higher court. But inasmuch as Mr. Purroy, in dismissing McCabe, held the position that an error of judgment was to be visited with dismissal from the service, and the court now having held that he committed a grave error of judgment in making this dismissal, would it not be a graceful thing on his part to accept the inevitable consequences of his decision and promptly hand in his resignation ? There is little prospect, however, that he will do so; for he belongs to that class of political office-holders of whom it is said, “ Few die, and none resign.”