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SF Fire Chief Hayes-White apologizes to Adachi for funeral ousting

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Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White called Public Defender Jeff Adachi to apologize after he was asked to leave the massive funeral of two fallen firefighters last week.

Adachi, who as the spokesman for pension reform has become the No. 1 enemy of police and firefighters, left the funeral after two unidentified fire officials told him he wasn’t welcome. The news turned an otherwise apolitical ceremony into controversy, with two more pension reform measures set for the November ballot and Adachi not backing down.

Adachi said Monday he attended the service to “pay my respects to the firefighters as an elected official.” He said he’s always had respect for public safety workers and the dangers they face every day.

But some funeral attendees apparently thought it was disrespectful of him to show up in the first place. First, one fire official came up to him while he was standing with other elected officials and asked him to leave. He refused. Then a second high-ranking official came up and repeated the request. That’s when the public defender left.

Deputy Fire Chief Pat Gardner said Monday that neither he nor Hayes-White knew that a uniformed firefighter had asked Adachi to leave.

But after hearing about it, Hayes-White called Adachi to apologize, Adachi said.

“Chief Hayes-White called to apologize,” Adachi said. “I replied that it was unnecessary.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com