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Former FDNY firefighter critical of diversity hiring wants his job back after department gave rookie who sent out anti-Semitic tweets a second chance
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Thomas Buttaro was fired in February for wearing 'Merit Matters' shirts that sources said insinuated minorities didn't earn their way into the department. (ELLEN MOYNIHAN/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

A former Brooklyn firefighter who was axed for wearing shirts his fellow smoke-eaters found offensive is fired up over news that another controversial member of the department will be getting a chance to revive his FDNY career.

Now the the Brooklyn firefighter is demanding his job back too, sources told the Daily News on Monday.

Thomas Buttaro was fired in February for wearing “Merit Matters” shirts that sources said insinuated minorities didn’t earn their way into the department.

But his lawyers said their client’s behavior was not nearly as condemnable as that of Joseph Cassano, who rejoined the department with the July Emergency Medical Services Academy class, 16 months after resigning over bigoted and anti-Semitic tweets.

“Mr. Buttaro did not engage in any kind of racist conduct,” Buttaro’s attorneys from the Law Office of Nathaniel B. Smith law firm wrote to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Some of the shirts the 44-year-old Buttaro wore while on the job at Ladder Co. 123 included slogans like “MADD — Minorities Against Dumbing Down,” which blamed court-ordered outreach to add minorities to the FDNY ranks for weakening the department, sources said.

“No matter what side of the racial battle lines you're on, all must agree it defies logic for the FDNY to terminate an individual for a T-shirt, yet welcome with open arms a vociferous proponent of racial disharmony,” Peter Gleason, co-counsel for Buttaro, told The News.

Buttaro's attorneys asserted their client "supported a political point of view about affirmative action, a position identical to the position that the City of New York has itself repeatedly taken in court cases regarding the Fire Department and other city agencies."

“Yet Mr. Joe Cassano — a publicly infamous racist — has been given his job back by you this month,” the letter said.

Cassano, 26, son of former Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, quit in March 2013 after posting offensive tweets on his personal Twitter account, @jcassano15. “I like Jews about as much as hitler #toofar? NOPE,” one read.

Joe Cassano graduated from the EMS Academy five months earlier and was still on department probation.

“Mr. Buttaro had over 20 years on the job ... yet the progeny of the former commissioner (Salvatore Cassano) is welcomed back into the fold with welcome arms?” Gleason said.

Gleason said he and Buttaro's other attorneys are prepared to battle the issue out in court should it come to that.

A spokesman for the FDNY confirmed the department received the letter addressed to Nigro.

Department sources noted the cases were very different, saying Cassano showed remorse whereas Buttaro disregarded every opportunity he had to right the situation.

"Firefighter Buttaro created a hostile work environment and multiple times was given the chance to accept a punishment or accept a penalty and multiple times refused," the source said. "That's what led to his termination.

"In Joe Cassano's case, he very publicly showed remorse and ... freely admits that his behavior was inexcusable," the source said.

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