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  1. #1
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post West Palm Beach Fla--Firefighters Claim Discrimination

    Palm Beach Post

    West Palm firefighters allege bias

    By J. Christopher Hain Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, April 10, 2003

    WEST PALM BEACH -- Mayor Lois Frankel is getting her first taste of racial divisiveness in the ranks: Several black firefighters have retained a lawyer and are alleging job discrimination within the city fire department.

    Attorney Frank McKeown has requested extensive information from the city about hiring and promotion practices in the department. McKeown's clients allege they have been subject to racial discrimination in hiring and promotion opportunities.

    "If my clients' claims are not based on facts, we'll go home," McKeown said.

    McKeown won't identify his clients, saying they might face retaliation. They scored high on written tests but did poorly on oral exams given by an all-white board, he said.

    Meanwhile, white firefighters who scored lower on the written exam scored higher on the oral test, McKeown said.

    "The concern here is that white firefighters were either provided with the answers to the oral testing or were tutored in advance," he wrote in a letter to the city.

    The advance notification is required under state law when anyone plans to sue a local government.

    Frankel said the city is investigating the firefighters' claims.

    "You don't even want to have a perception of discrimination," Frankel said.

    Such a lawsuit could put the new mayor in a sticky situation. She relied on heavy support from the firefighters union during her election victory over former Mayor Joel Daves.

    "I have a very strong record of civil rights," she said. "No one's going to mess with me on this issue."

    Whether the discrimination is real or perceived, she said, the firefighters union wants an objective review of the facts.

    But union tactics could be a target of any lawsuit. The allegations from McKeown's clients include claims that the union refused to file grievances on their behalf when they complained about discrimination.

    Racial tension surrounded the fire department in 2001, when Daves nominated Capt. Rhett Turnquest, a black, as the city's fire chief. After union lobbying, city commissioners rejected Turnquest. They finally approved Daves' appointment of Ray Carter, a white battalion chief.

    McKeown said he's willing to back off if the city has objective evidence that there was no discrimination.

    "It may be the city can come up with a logical reason why these guys weren't promoted," McKeown said. "I doubt it."

    chris_hain@pbpost.com
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


  2. #2
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    It seem to me, at this point in time, what we have here is a they said this, they said that..

    The exam marks are known...and since the attorney will not give out the names of his clients (and I don't know why, because I am sure that everyone took the exam together, so everyone knows who took the test.) If the exam result "grapevine" is the same as it is here in Massachusetts, everyone calls one another to find out what everyone else got and try to see who got the top score as soon as the list comes out.

    It appears that this is a two part exam...a written section and an oral board. Some people are book smart, but can't think on their feet when asked what they would do in a certain situation. Others may not score as well on a written exam, but ace the oral boards because they have a feel for the job and can work with grace under pressure.

    As it has pointed out here on the forums, you can't throw a book at a fire and expect it to go out.

    How were the written and oral boards scored and weighed for the exam result?


    Attorney Frank McKeown has requested extensive information from the city about hiring and promotion practices in the department. McKeown's clients allege they have been subject to racial discrimination in hiring and promotion opportunities.

    McKeown won't identify his clients, saying they might face retaliation. They scored high on written tests but did poorly on oral exams given by an all-white board, he said.
    His clients are on the job, which means they got hired...so where's the discrimination problem? Why are they playing the "race card" by mentioning that the oral board was "all white"...would they have claimed racial discrimination if the oral board was made up of all blacks, or a mix of both white and black reviewers? If the oral baord members were black, and they didn't get the promotion, would they accuse them of being "Uncle Toms" and "dissing the brothers"?
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 04-10-2003 at 08:18 PM.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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