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 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.