UFA Stephen Cassidy: Fake News Architect
Used Gary Suson as Pawn to Exact a Political
Vendetta in 2005.
Stephen Cassidy, President of the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association from 2002 to 2016 and who masterminded a series of “Fake News Stories” in 2005 about Official Ground Zero Photographer Gary Suson in a desperate ploy to get even with rival union member Rudy Sanfilippo — was recently given the boot by his fellow board members of the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association after learning they had been betrayed.
On September 19, 2016 Steve Cassidy was labeled a “turncoat” by his fellow Fire Union Board Members for engaging in secret meetings and negotiations with the City of New York to become Executive Director of the new Fire Pension Fund without even so much as consulting with the Board of the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association of which he served as President. After accepting the high-paying position, the Fire Commissioner announced Cassidy’s new role, which infuriated the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association as well as firefighters around the U.S.A. Under the UFA’s “Turncoat Provision” – passed 20 years ago – union officials are barred from going to work for the city in most capacities for three years after stepping down from their duties. The UFA Board taken by surprise — voted 9-1 to have Mr. Cassidy leave office effective immediately with no salary as opposed to finishing up his work ending on November 1, 2016, which was the date he would start his new position at Fire and Pension. The only board member who voted “For” Cassidy to stay on was his long-time friend and UFA colleague James Slevin, who will temporarily fill the position of President. The next election for UFA President will be in March, 2017 – and one of the candidates for that position will be Kenny Specht, Founder of the Brotherhood Foundation.
This is not the first-time Cassidy has been caught up in scandal. As reported in “The Chief” newspaper in April of 2004, President Cassidy locked horns with fellow Fire Union Trustee Rudy Sanfilippo, who attempted to bring his own union’s President up on in internal charges for allegedly abusing Pension Funds for personal use. Sanfilippo called it “questionable spending” after it was revealed on a monthly financial statement that Cassidy was using pension funds to make personal car payments for his driver John Mixon. (Mind you I did a lot of digging on microfiche at the public library to find all this!) This resulted in a massive internal union war between Cassidy and Sanfilippo. “We started asking questions, and we started getting bad answers,” Mr. Sanfilippo said. In the end, it was decided by an internal union investigation and vote that the payments Cassidy authorized were indeed against regulations and Cassidy had to pay the fund back, which he did. Why he was not voted out of office for theft back then nobody knows. This is politics.
Character Assassination Courtesy of Stephen Cassidy
One unlikely and innocent victim of this war was the acclaimed photographer Gary Marlon Suson, who spent seven months documenting the Ground Zero “Recovery Period” for the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association in 2001 and 2002 — prior to the arrival of Stephen Cassidy to the Union. Suson became known in FDNY circles as “Rudy’s Kid” since Sanfilippo discovered Suson and set the wheels in motion for Suson to get the coveted job to document on the front lines at Ground Zero after 9/11 for the UFA. The 2004 war between Sanfilippo and Cassidy was well-known in FDNY circles and only grew stronger into 2005, up until Sanfilippo would leave the UFA. Needless to say, anytime Gary Suson was in the news for his work at Ground Zero — CNN, NY1, Fox News or others – Rudy Sanfilippo was either with him or his name was brought up, infuriating Steve Cassidy who didn’t want Sanfilippo receiving any type of positive press. From 2001 – 2005, whenever a major media outlet wanted to interview Suson, they always called the Fire Union to confirm Gary Suson’s Official Photographer for the UFA title before putting him on the air or in the news. That is standard procedure. Coincidentally, the New York Post did just that two times and confirmed Suson’s official title in the newspaper. In light of the fact that the UFA had confirmed Suson’s title over 100 times by the time 2005 rolled along, his title was now solidified in American history and a matter of public record. That is until Stephen Cassidy came along…
On September 7, 2005 — only 30 days after UFA Manhattan Trustee Rudy Sanfilippo had vacated the Fire Union — Official Ground Zero Photographer Gary Suson opened up his tiny Ground Zero Museum Workshop in the Meatpacking District so visitors and 9/11 families could learn about the special stories that took place inside Ground Zero after 9/11. It was to be a place of healing and education; however, the timing could not have been more horrible. What Suson – who hails from Chicago – didn’t realize was that he was now “fair game” for Cassidy – he was an open target for a brutal politician who wanted some payback on Rudy Sanfilippo. In late August, 2005, when a national press release came out that Mr. Suson was opening a 9/11-themed Museum in NYC, it traveled fast in the media and appeared quickly on the Fox News ticker in Times Square. Media response was enormous and Suson was flooded with PR requests, however he agreed to give the first interview to the Associated Press.
9/11 Photographer Gary Suson.
A Victim of Fake News.
On the weekend of August 26, 2005 the AP ran a world-wide story on how Gary Suson’s visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam inspired him to create another tiny Museum in New York — the Ground Zero Museum Workshop. The Museum was slated to open September 7, 2005. Unfortunately, the AP story also caught the eye of Stephen Cassidy, the President at the Firefighter’s Union and his PR spokesman Thomas Butler, who noticed that Rudy Sanfilippo was also included the story. Cassidy, looking to settle an old score with Sanfilippo clearly decided that Gary Suson would be a wonderful pawn to achieve this goal. According to my interview with Gary Suson, he explained that on Sunday, August 28, 2005, around 8:00 a.m., he received a phone call from AP writer Verena Dobnik, who informed him (as a favor) that Thomas Butler, PR spokesman on behalf of the UFA and Stephen Cassidy — had contacted her and told her that “Gary Suson was never our Official Photographer at Ground Zero. He’s a fraud — a liar.” Cassidy demanded the story be yanked from the AP and a retraction issued. Suddenly, 30 days after Sanfilippo leaves the UFA – as well as almost five years and 100 stories later on Suson, Steve Cassidy wanted to re-write history (Keep in mind Cassidy didn’t work at Ground Zero and had no affiliation with the Fire Union when Suson was working for the UFA at Ground Zero). The Associated Press re-investigated Gary Marlon Suson and his title, spoke to high ranking officials in the FDNY and by that Monday had issued a decision: They were sticking with the original story. Gary Suson, according to one of the most respected news reporting agencies in the world, was indeed the Official Photographer of Record at Ground Zero for the Uniformed Firefighters Association and Fire Officer’s Association. The AP was not buying what Stephen Cassidy and his new union were selling. Something was clearly amiss and they wanted no part of it.
9/11 Family Member John Vigiano Defended Gary Suson
after New York Post Fake News Story.
Infuriated, Stephen Cassidy then contacted his long-time ally, Cynthia Fagen of the New York Post, a tabloid queen and top “fake news” specialist in New York. Whenever Cassidy needed stories run or spun in the Post, he always went to Cynthia Fagen, Susan Edelman and Stephanie Gaskell. Cassidy’s mentality worked like this: He knew a character attack on Gary Suson, a patsy — would upset Rudy Sanfilippo. The character assassination hit was ‘on' for Gary Suson and Fagen did her work quickly and rather well. On August 30, 2005, Fagen falsely told Suson’s PR rep Carmen Group Communications she wanted to do a nice story on the Museum and asked to send over a photographer, who suckered Suson into posing for photos in his Museum, which had not yet opened to the public. Once the photos were in hand, Cynthia Fagen called Suson and began accusing him of stealing 9/11 victim’s belongings, lying about his “Official UFA Photographer at Ground Zero” title and of not raising monies for 9/11 charities. Reached in New York, Gary Suson stated, “It was horrifying. She was hurling accusations left and right. She refused to even visit the Museum. She knew exactly what she was going to write even before she called. The whole thing stunk of a set-up. It was so clear what was happening. I said to her you’re going to write very bad things about me – lies – aren’t you? Fagen responded with you should have known this would happen to you when you decided to open up a 9/11 Museum.” For three painful days, Suson weathered fake story after fake story, having to read in horror things that made him look like a villain. The New York Post called him a grave-robber, a mongrel dog, a phony, a scammer, a thief, and more. Death threats began coming in and sponsors pulling out. He received a call from friend and famed gossip columnist George Rush, who told him, “Gary you’re an important guy, but not that important that you would be in the Post three days in a row. Who set you up? Who is doing this to you and why?” Suson knew the answers. The New York Post was actually gearing up to run a 4th fake story after they intentionally and secretly sent in to the Museum a Mr. Charles Wolf, an outspoken 9/11 family member who lost his wife on 9/11 and didn’t like 9/11 exploitation. What the Post hadn’t banked on was Mr. Wolf was an intellectual and brutally honest. He later told Suson that he reported back to the New York Post that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Museum’s contents. There was no story here and he was not going to be used to perpetuate lies. Good one on Charles Wolf.
Read Part 2.