Bridgeport hiring felons Heats up for the bad
Lawyer: Can't bar felons from civil jobs
By AARON LEO firstname.lastname@example.org
State law bars municipalities from imposing a ban on hiring felons solely because of their criminal records, according to the lawyer for a city firefighter candidate with a felony conviction on his record.
Two candidates for city firefighter have felony convictions.
Earl King Jr. served several months in federal prison for bagging crack cocaine for the Peeler drug gang. Edward Valderrama has a felony conviction of an undisclosed nature. Valderrama declined comment on the advice of his lawyer.
King is ranked 16th on the city's firefighter hiring list, and Valderrama is ranked 91st. The Civil Service Commission placed them on the list despite a civil service guideline barring hiring of felons. The commission is reviewing its decision.
The city has not hired new firefighters from the hiring list.
In spite of the Civil Service Commission's informal guideline, the city itself does not specifically bar felons from civil service jobs.
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King's lawyer, Susan Wallace, said the commission is trying to remove her client from the list based only on his conviction, in violation of state discrimination laws. She spoke to a reporter at the commission's meeting Tuesday, while the panel was in closed session.
The law allows employers to deny employment to convicted felons only after considering the type of crime and its relationship to the job requirements, as well as how long ago the conviction occurred and the degree of rehabilitation.
The issue attracted the attentions of state Sen. Ernest E. Newton II and Rep. Charles D. Clemons Jr., both D-Bridgeport, who supported the candidates.
"There's only one judge. We know who that is
God," Clemons, a retired city firefighter, said before the meeting.
Newton said, "You can't be rehabilitated if you can't get a job.
"Should you be denied employment opportunities for the rest of the rest of your life [because of a felony conviction]?"
Minority city firefighters groups also support Valderrama and King.
But Fire Chief Michael Maglione said before the meeting that convicted felons cannot be trusted in the Fire Department.
"There is a level of trust that is an essential part of the whole thing," he said. "Firefighters go into people's homes."
He argued that even if the conviction occurred years ago and the candidates have not backslid, they "forfeited [their] opportunity to work in emergency public services."
On Tuesday, the commission again reviewed Valderrama's case in closed session and tabled it until September's meeting.
King's case, which the commission did not discuss Tuesday, will continue at October's meeting.
A city councilman recently proposed an ordinance banning people with violent felony convictions from working in civil service jobs.
Wallace called the term "convicted felon" misleading and stigmatizing.
A felony is a charge
not necessarily violent
that carries a prison term of at least a year upon conviction, she said.
Aaron Leo, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6222.
Some make mistakes, some are made to be mistakes.
I'm sitting here trying to find information about still being a firefighter while having a felony conviction.
Back in '99 I got married. During the courtship everything was great. Soon after the marriage things turned south and over time she became very verbally abusive. We decided that I would close my company, where I was gone much of the time but made a great income, to be near home now that we had our first son. I joined a volunteer fire department, got my EMT-B and went through the local Fire Academy. In two years I was one of the most trained and certified firefighters in the department, since the academy couldn't be done by everyone and most had suffered the long term of catching night classes as they could. My marriage at that point was terrible, there was no affection, no acceptance, and growing anamosity for me. In addition I was now brining home very little money comparred to her 85k. I reached a point after counceling, pastors, and seminars that I had to send a message that the marriage wasn't going to work as it was. I chose to separate from her and get some space between us. I still saw my boys at that time but nothing changed between us. I was doing much better at the fire department, my supervisors taking an interest in me and grooming me to become a lieutenant and take my new knowlege and teach new subordinates and rookies. after a year passed we decided to go for divorce (her dicision). Shortly after hiring an attorney and us starting to argue over her wanting to move three hours away and me not wanting to be an (every other weekend daddy), all communication ceased. Then, at the advisement of her attorney they opened a case against me for child porn. She knew that I was looking at internet porn while we were still together, but now separated and doing so well at the fire department, I had a new direction and drive in my life. I was taken into custody, my computer seized and was immediatly fired from the Fire Department and the EMS ambulance service that I worked at. The local News aired a story on "The local firefighter arrested who confessed to having sex with children as young as 5 years old". DSS got involved and and found no evidence of abuse but agreed that the viewing of porn was a risk. I went through evaluations, polygraph examinations, and Sex offender specific evaluations. All of which showed that I have never been interested in kids, pursued kids, had sex with anyone "underage", or have any hidden desires to enguage in sexual relations with those "underage". After a year and 3 months and recreating past history on my hard drive Porn was found to be on my computer during the time I stated and while I was still married living with her. The history also showed that as I continued looking at it, it grew to a level that would be classified as an addictive compulsive disorder. Now I have gone to court over 5 pictures that were in my deleted history and been charged with 5 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. A sex crime on my record for 10 years and a felony for life. Since my separation I have not viewed porn, have no interest in it since I got out of that relationship. My Ex however got immediate full custody of my boys, the ability to move where ever she wants, and while the judge allows me to be around my boys, my Ex is now long gone and I have no way of finding them.
As for the local News, I can't go after them for slander in reporting that I confessed to having sex with kids as young as 5, because they just claim they were reporting the information that the Sheriffs department gave them.
The sheriffs dept. isn't liable because they were conducting an investigation to see if I was worse that what I was confessing to be, "looking at porn in my basement while in a poor marriage.
The article above brings up an interesting question. If a person with a felony should be able to be a firefighter or (public servant). I can understand that with my new label that I wouldn't be trusted around kids teaching fire safety at school, but why could I not continue to risk my life for the help and benefit of others as an on call wildland firefighter? Or as a firefighter period we are a team and never alone in any situation.
In addition the article points out that, "how can one be rehibilitated if one cannot get a job". Even if there is no way that I can serve as an EMT or Firefighter it shouldn't mean that I cannot find a job to be able to provide for my new wife and stepson who love me and make me feel worthy of going on in life. We should all be careful how hard we judge others, the label they wear now my not be the person who they are now. People CAN learn and CHANGE from their mistakes and try to straighten out their lives. They should be judged on what they are doing to make it right.
While I may not be able to teach any Rookies in a classroom, I may have one more lesson. Becareful what you do in your off time and how you handle your lives. That one small mistake may cost you from being able to do the job that you love, for the rest of your life.
So now I remain, Longing to see you at a Combat Challenge and show you 43 isn't old.