By MICHELLE O'DONNELL

Published: April 29, 2005

aced with a subpoena from the City Council, the Bloomberg administration reversed itself yesterday and said it would permit a senior fire official who is a harsh critic of the city's new emergency protocols to testify before the Council.

The dispute over the protocols, which are an effort to prevent a repeat of the missed communications and lack of coordination between the Police and Fire Departments that a federal inquiry found had cost many rescuers' lives on Sept. 11, spilled into the mayoral race after simmering for months behind the scenes.

The quarrel began on Wednesday, when council members said that the administration was refusing to allow senior fire and police officials to testify at public hearings next month on the new protocols, which would define the roles of the Police and Fire Departments at emergencies.

A spokesman for the mayor said then that only the commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management would be allowed to testify.

But the Council said it would insist on testimony from the city's highest ranking fire officer, the chief of the department, Peter E. Hayden, who said in an interview last week that the plan was "a recipe for disaster" that would leave the city unable to mount a more efficient response to a terrorist attack than it did on Sept. 11.

Yesterday at City Hall, the council speaker, Gifford Miller, and two members, Peter F. Vallone Jr. and Yvette D. Clarke, displayed a subpoena they later issued to Chief Hayden.

"That is unacceptable," said Mr. Vallone, whose council committee oversees the police and the emergency management office. "We need to hear from the officers in the trenches, making the decisions. They have concerns, so we have concerns. Mr. Mayor, let them speak."

Later in the day, the administration responded that Chief Hayden could indeed testify in the joint committee hearings scheduled for May 9. It called the subpoena "political grandstanding," and said the Council had never asked for the chief by name.

"The speaker's threat to issue a subpoena is puzzling, since the City Council never requested that Chief Hayden testify at this hearing," said Edward Skyler, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg. "If they want him to appear, all they have to do is ask."

Ms. Clarke, the chairwoman of the Fire and Criminal Justices Services Committee, said the mayor's office was splitting hairs to cover its change in position. She said the Council had requested testimony from Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, whom the mayor customarily sends to such hearings along with senior chiefs. During any hearing on emergency preparedness, she said, Chief Hayden is sent as well.

But on Wednesday, Jordan Barowitz, a mayoral spokesman, said that only Joseph Bruno, the emergency management commissioner, would be allowed to testify because that agency had taken the lead in establishing the protocols, which are known as the Citywide Incident Management System, or CIMS.

The protocols, based on a national model of emergency management set by the Department of Homeland Security, are required in all cities that receive federal security funding. It has taken New York City, which is scheduled to receive $166 million in such funds in the 2006 federal budget, two years to draft the protocols.

Federal and independent investigations have faulted the city for lacking a command structure that clearly defined the roles of the Police and Fire Departments on Sept. 11. One recent federal report said that better coordination would have saved lives.

Chief Hayden and other fire officials have criticized the city's protocols for deviating from the national model in two ways: by not calling for shared command by the police and fire departments at some large-scale emergencies, and for putting the police in command during some situations involving hazardous materials releases, which are normally handled by fire departments.

Mr. Miller, one of four Democrats aiming to unseat Mr. Bloomberg, accused him yesterday of "trying to put one over on the Council."

He and the two other council members said they learned on April 22 that the mayor had signed the new emergency protocols 11 days earlier. A few days later, they said, their request for testimony from top fire and police officials was denied.

"If it's really that good a system," Mr. Miller added, "they should be willing to defend it."

Nicholas Confessore contributed reporting for this article.