Lot more trouble for City of Bridgeport Fire dept over hiring test
2 on Bridgeport hiring list
By AARON LEO firstname.lastname@example.org
BRIDGEPORT — Two convicted felons are on the Fire Department's hiring list, sparking criticism from a firefighter group and several firefighter candidates.
But the Civil Service Commission, which allowed the men to be listed, could reconsider this move at a special meeting July 27 because new information about the two candidates recently surfaced, said John C. Colligan, the city's recently retired civil service director.
Colligan would not identify the two felons, but said he opposed their addition to the hiring list. The notice for the 2002 firefighter entrance exam had stated no one with felony convictions would be appointed.
Barring felons has been a city Civil Service standard since 1936, but is not required by an ordinance or the city charter, Colligan said. However, felons cannot be police officers because state law prohibits convicted felons from carrying guns, he said.
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The firefighter issue arose when nine people, including the two felons, appealed to the Civil Service Commission after Colligan refused to place them on the list.
The commission overrode him at its June 8 meeting, voting to place the felons on the hiring list out of sympathy, Colligan said.
The city has not yet hired any new firefighters from the list, which expires two years after the date of the first hire.
Richard Albrecht, lawyer for the Bridgeport Firefighters for Merit Employment, is also asking the commission to reconsider its decision. The BFME's stated goal is to ensure Civil Service rules are followed in hiring and promotion.
In a June 22 appeal filed with the Civil Service Office, Albrecht said the firefighter candidates with felonies are untrustworthy and not qualified for the job.
"Trust between firefighters is an integral and necessary part of the job," he said.
They also cannot be trusted to protect personal property in buildings, and the job requires they sometimes must enter while the owners are not there, he contended.
"Although the Civil Service Commission may feel compassion for certain individuals, or feel that they want to give them a chance, such laudable motives should not be involved in appointments to agencies in the public safety sector," the BFME appeal states.
Albrecht said he also filed a request June 10 for the candidates' identities to be revealed under the Freedom of Information Act. The City Attorney's office is considering it, Colligan said.
John Bolton and 18 other white firefighter candidates are also protesting the decision.
Bolton complained to the City Council about the issue at its meeting Tuesday.
The 19 have already filed two federal lawsuits against numerous city officials and panels alleging violations of their civil rights by reverse discrimination.
Lawyer Norman Pattis represents them in both suits, which name a total of about 130 defendants.
The plaintiffs seek millions of dollars in damages and want the list of more than 600 candidates thrown out.
They contend a prejudicial oral exam prevented them from ranking higher in the 2002 entrance testing process, among other allegations.
Aaron Leo, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6222.