It has been about 14 months since Russell Brooks last served as Utica’s fire chief.
With Brooks on administrative leave, the Utica Fire Department has had three interim chiefs in that span. Retired Utica fire Capt. James Barefoot, the latest appointed to the role, officially started July 2.
Through it all, Brooks continues to challenge the city’s decision to place him on paid, nondisciplinary, administrative leave due to concerns with Brooks’ health. While Mayor Robert Palmieri and other city officials have pointed to reports from their hired specialists as evidence, Brooks has challenged those findings with positive recommendations, he said, from his own physicians.
“I could have finished out my career,” Brooks said. “This is strictly political. Palmieri and I did not get along, and this was his way of thinking he could get me out of the picture.”