FDNY pension board to review firefighters' disabilities
Last Updated: 11:29 AM, November 21, 2010
Posted: 12:30 AM, November 21, 2010
For the first time in 35 years, the Fire Department pension board is recalling two retired firefighters to determine whether the medical disabilities that allowed them to leave at a comfortable three-quarters pay still exist, The Post has learned.
Sources said letters went out last month instructing the two to report for new medical evaluations under the threat of losing their tax-free disability pension checks if they don't show.
One of the ex-firefighters is John Giuffrida, 42, who was spotlighted by The Post for competing in martial-arts kickboxing matches while pulling down $74,624 a year in disability pay after coming down with asthma and other lung ailments in 2003.
The second is James Kadnar, also 42, who started collecting $65,000 in 2006 based on a chronic sinus condition -- but who this year applied to become a cop in North Carolina and underwent what was described as a "vigorous four-month training program."
Kadnar came to the city's attention in July, when Sgt. D.M. Warnick of the New Hanover Sheriff's Department in Wilmington, NC, sent a letter to New York City Comptroller John Liu to report the ex-firefighter's application, noting that he had retired from the FDNY on a disability.
Warnick told The Post that Kadnar later dropped out of the program.
"He is not a cop," Warnick said.
According to the Basic Law Enforcement syllabus at Cape Fear Community College, where Kadnar took his training, police applicants at the end of 19 weeks have to be able to perform 11 physical feats in seven minutes and 20 seconds.
They include completing 20 push-ups and 20 sit-ups; scaling and descending staircases while touching all steps; dragging a person 50 feet; and crawling through a 40-foot-long culvert with a flashlight.
There's another reason officials should know Kadnar -- he's filed two lawsuits against the city.
In 2006, the year he retired, Kadnar claimed to have sustained "severe, serious and permanent personal injuries, including but not limited to toxoplasmosis [a parasitic infection], manifested by severe fatigue, high levels of toxins in his blood, significant pain and other injuries," as a result of cleaning out an FDNY maintenance warehouse contaminated by dead rats and fleas.
In 2004, Kadnar sued as a 9/11 responder, saying he was suffering from "reactive airway disease, clinical asthma, respiratory insufficiency and other injuries, the full extent of which have yet to be determined."
None of the ailments, apparently, stopped him from considering a new career as a cop.
A call to Kadnar's lawyer, Michael Block, was not returned Friday.
Giuffrida had previously told The Post that "I have nothing to hide" and that the conditions that forced him out of the FDNY "in no way preclude me living an active life in order to preserve my health."
The last time anyone could remember the FDNY pension board recalling a retiree for a medical checkup was in 1975, when ex-firefighter Gary Muhrke was asked to explain how he was able to win a race to the top of the Empire State Building after getting out with a bad back.
The medical board accepted his claim that the strength needed to run up 102 flights of stairs was different from that required for firefighting.
The pension board's crackdown comes as the city faces a record $8.3 billion pension bill next year -- more than 12 percent of the entire $68 billion budget. In Mayor Bloomberg's first budget in fiscal 2003, the pension bill was $1.8 billion, or 4 percent of the $44 billion being spent that year.
John Giuffrida, 42
* Claimed asthma and lung ailments
* Retired in 2003, after 12 years
* $74,624 annual tax-free pension, now under review
* Giuffrida’s lung ailments didn’t stop him from hiking, scuba diving and becoming a mixed-martial-arts fighter who competes in grueling kickboxing matches.
James Kadnar, 42
* Claimed chronic sinus condition
* Retired in 2006, after 13 years
* $65,000 annual tax-free pension, now under review
* Kadnar was able-bodied enough to get through the rigorous four-month training to be a North Carolina cop, which required him to do 20 push-ups and sit-ups, crawl through a culvert, drag a person 50 feet and scale staircases all in 7 minutes, 20 seconds.