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Discrimination claims could jeopardize $6 million grant to hire firefighters

Posted: April 10, 2014 - 4:44pm  |  Updated: April 10, 2014 - 9:44pm

The federal government is reviewing a $5.9 million grant to hire Jacksonville firefighters because of discrimination claims against the fire department, letters the city released Thursday show.

“It has come to the attention of the department that a number of complaints and allegations of illegal discrimination have been made against JFRD regarding both its hiring and promotion practices,” a Department of Homeland Security administrator wrote to General Counsel Cindy Laquidara last month.

The city isn’t worried, a spokesman said.

“We are comfortable that, as the review concludes, the City will move forward under the intent of the program,” said the spokesman, David DeCamp.

It’s not clear how long the review will last.

Homeland Security officials asked the city to deliver 16 pieces of information, including rosters of firefighters and “a position statement on the subject matter” on the review, by late May. The city is putting together the information, DeCamp said.

When city officials announced the grant in January, they said it would allow the city to hire 67 firefighters.

DeCamp said the grant money remains “part of our financial plans” for next year’s budget, which Mayor Alvin Brown will propose in July.

The federal review is touching on a time-worn topic in the fire department.

The Justice Department sued the city in 2012, saying there had been a “pattern or practice of employment discrimination” within the department. That case is still pending, and Homeland Security officials noted another federal court fight started in 2013.

The city has denied discriminating, and has consistently agreed to follow federal policies as it has received a series of earlier grants.

Despite that, the Homeland Security letter said, “we have been alerted to actual findings discussing JFRD’s conduct with respect to its nondiscrimination obligations.”

The letter quoted a finding from a 1995 federal court case that the “city has a history of discriminating against African-Americans in the fire department” and a 2006 report by the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission of “[f]ar too many instances of unfair or alleged discriminatory treatment.”

 

Steve Patterson: (904) 359-4263

Comments (1)

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johnctaughtme
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johnctaughtme 04/10/14 - 10:34 pm
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Exactly what did the City do

Exactly what did the City do or not do which was discriminatory; or did the numbers just not come out "right"? What was the outcome of that 1995 case and other cases, including those which went to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals? What was the outcome in federal court when four white fire lieutenants charged the City with discrimination? Perhaps the discrimination occurred when the Director of Public Safety in the past administration made a decision to hire all black applicants on a hiring list in an apparent effort to get the numbers "right".

Did any of the alleged "discrimination" occur during the eight years that a capable and qualified African-American was the Director of Public Safety/Fire Chief, or during the several years in the following administration during which another African-American (Ph.D.) was fire chief?

What were the procedures followed by the Human Rights Commission? Who selected those who would testify? Was there anything resembling cross-examination or rebuttal? Where is a transcript of the Human Rights Commission's proceedings in this and similar matters?

In all of those cases, all of those situations, and all of that history, journalism and reporting on them has been inadequate and ill-informed at best.

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