Council may bar felons from city jobs

Firefighters' protest over hiring list prompts move


BRIDGEPORT A resolution proposed to the City Council would bar felons from working for the city.

The resolution, proposed by City Council member Keith Cougar Rodgerson, D-133, comes less than a month after firefighters protested the listing of two convicted felons on the Fire Department's hiring list.

Rodgerson said he proposed the measure to encode as law what has been the city's standard hiring procedure.

"There are people who are working for the city, or who have worked for the city at one point, in part because of this," he said. "I don't think it's in the best interests of the city to hire felons."

The Civil Service Commission could reconsider whether the two felons will remain on the firefighter hiring list at a special meeting next Tuesday because new information about the two candidates recently surfaced, said John C. Colligan, the city's retired civil service director.

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Routinely barring felons from employment has been a local Civil Service standard since 1936, but it is not required by ordinance or the city charter, Colligan said. Felons cannot be police officers because state law prohibits them from carrying guns, he added.

City Councilman Raphael A. Mojica, D-131, said last week he hadn't yet had a chance to study the resolution, but the city has to "look at both sides" when considering hiring a felon.

"This is one reason there is such a large revolving door in the prison system," he said. "They don't get much of a chance to do something or advance themselves."

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 hiring list.

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.

Nineteen white firefighters are also protesting the decision. One of them, John Bolton, complained to the City Council about the issue at its meeting last week.

City Councilman Robert P. Curwen Sr., D-138, said Thursday he "wholeheartedly" supports Rodgerson's resolution, adding that he thinks it is "embarrassing" the two felons made the hiring list.

"We should bar them from the test and the list," he said. "Maybe more of a background investigation should be done before they're put on the list."

Frank Washkuch Jr., who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6388.