BC-CT--Firefighter Lawsuit, Conn Bjt,360
New Haven firefighters sue city over promotion policy
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A mostly white group of city
firefighters sued New Haven Thursday, claiming the fire
department's promotion policy is one based on political cronyism
and nepotism and not on merit.
The 19 white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter allege in
their federal lawsuit that Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and other city
officials have corrupted the civil service process for political
gain, the New Haven Register reported.
"These firefighters believe that the city continues to
manipulate the merit system so they can reward political cronies,
friends and relatives with jobs," their attorney Karen Torre said
during a news conference Thursday on the steps of City Hall.
She said individuals have been denied promotions "because
they're not the right color, they're not the right political party
or they're not related to a politician."
Two tests for fire lieutenant and captain were thrown out
earlier this year after city officials worried that few minority
and no black candidates would be promoted. There are 15 vacancies
in the two ranks and all but one of the top 15 scores were recorded
by white candidates.
"To have the city throw it out because you're white or because
you're not African-American is insulting," said Frank Ricci, a
white firefighter who took the lieutenant's test.
City Corporation Counsel Thomas Ude Jr., a defendant in the
lawsuit, denied the group's claims. He said certifying the tests
would have violated federal civil rights laws.
"It's as plain and simple as that," he said. "It was not
about politics. This administration has hired and promoted more
firefighters than any other based on merit, to the extent that it
can be determined. Merit includes everyone's merit, not just the
white guys."
The lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal troubles for the
city fire department.
The fire union filed its own lawsuit in state court against the
city last month and a group of minority firefighters is expected to
sue the union over use of union dues. The minority firefighters
contend their dues were used to help pay for a lawsuit they oppose.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)