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    Default Firefighter exam results under fire

    Stamford firefighter exam results under fire

    By Donna Porstner
    Staff Writer
    The Advocate

    December 21, 2005

    STAMFORD -- The city dropped the passing score on the recent firefighter exam 10 points below the testing company's recommendation to ensure minorities would make it to the hiring list. But instead of using that flexibility to hire more blacks and Hispanics, officials hired their friends and relatives, top scorers on the exam say.

    Applicants had to score at least a 37 -- or 47 percent of the questions right -- to pass the Aug. 6 exam.

    The testing company, Firefighter Selection Inc. of Folsom, Calif., advised the city that applicants should answer at least 60 percent of the questions correctly to pass, but Director of Human Resources Dennis Murphy said he decided not to follow the recommendation because it would have prevented the city from hiring most of the blacks and Hispanics who took the test.

    "I refused to use it because the racial impact was disparate," Murphy said.

    By dropping the passing score to 37, the city more than tripled the number of minorities eligible for hire.

    Of the 278 applicants who took the test, five minorities scored 47 or higher -- four Hispanic men and one black man. When the passing score was lowered, 16 minorities became eligible -- seven black men, seven Hispanic men, one white woman and one man who identified his background as "other."

    But since their scores put them at the bottom of the list, they won't be eligible for hire until the final two years. In the meantime, the department has vacancies to fill.

    In the four job offers extended to date, the commission made no distinction between applicants who scored in the 70s and 80s and those who scored in the 50s or 60s. One scored an 82 -- the second highest -- and the others scored 80, 60 and 58.

    Two of the four job offers were made to sons of Stamford Fire & Rescue firefighters. The mayor's nephew, Brien Malloy, Fire Chief Robert McGrath's son, Michael McGrath, and Fire Commissioner E. Gaynor Brennan's son, Christopher Brennan, were among the eight alternates.

    One of the new hires -- Scott Avalos, son of Fire Capt. William Avalos -- and alternates Christopher Brennan and Michael McGrath were in the third rank, meaning they were in the group that had the lowest scores of the 120 candidates eligible to be hired.

    James Romaniello of Stamford, son of Fire Capt. James Romaniello, scored an 82, the second-highest mark on the test, and was hired.

    Some white men who scored high enough to make it to the top of the hiring list but were not offered jobs said they are outraged. Three white men spoke on the condition that their names would not be used. As one applicant put it, "it would be career suicide" to speak out because they would never get hired.

    The men, who were in the first rank for having the top 15 scores, said they left their interviews with the impression that the new hires were predetermined.

    All three said they knew they didn't have a shot at a job when they walked into the interview and the commissioners seemed uninterested. Each said they were in the room for no more than two or three minutes and were not asked personal questions.

    One applicant said he was surprised that all the commissioners asked him was to verify his address and employer, which the Human Resources Department could have done over the telephone.

    "I even sat with an interview coach a week before, and when I heard that, I almost fell out of my chair," the applicant said.

    It was crushing to learn that political connections and ethnicity mattered more than their knowledge of firefighting, they said. For many applicants who grew up in the city, becoming a Stamford Fire & Rescue firefighter is a lifelong dream.

    "All of those guys who got hired have some political connection somehow, some way. So unless you know someone, you're not getting a job -- unless you're a minority," one applicant said.

    If that's how Stamford picks its firefighters, another applicant said, he doesn't want to work for the city.

    "Honestly, I don't even want to work downtown any more," he said. "If they called me, I don't even know how I would respond."

    Fire Commission Chairman Richard Lyons would not say what questions the commissioners asked during the interviews.

    "They all had the same opportunity. They were all asked the same questions," he said. "They know what the question was."

    Lyons said no one has filed a formal complaint or made allegations of favoritism to him directly.

    "I haven't spoken to anyone who brought up those questions. No one has called me to complain. I'm just telling you it didn't happen," he said.

    Yesterday, he declined to talk about how the new hires were chosen, but in a previous interview he said the commission emphasized the interview.

    "The discussions on the hires were held in executive session, so I am not going to go into detail about the individuals and how they were hired," he said. "All I am going to say is that we used the process we have for 10 years."

    The only difference, Lyons said, was that there were 120 candidates this time, compared with 40 during the last firefighter test in 2002.

    "And that wasn't our doing," Lyons said. "That was done by HR."

    Murphy said they changed the hiring process to allow the Fire Commission to interview all 120 candidates in the first wave because of "strong perceived unfairness" three years ago. Applicants complained because their section of the hiring list expired before they had a chance to be interviewed. Meanwhile, applicants in the second wave who scored lower were hired.

    Although all applicants for city jobs are asked to disclose their race, it does not affect their chance of getting hired, Murphy said.

    Being white didn't work against firefighter candidates, Murphy said.

    But white candidates want to know why they were photographed on their way into the Fire Commission interview in November.

    One applicant who made it to the top of the hiring list but was not offered a job questioned why they were photographed holding a card with a number on it. He was told it was to help the commissioners match names with faces after 120 interviews in two days.

    Murphy and Lyons said they did not know photographs were taken.

    Once the test results are in and the list is certified, hiring is in the hands of the Fire Commission, Murphy said.

    "All we do in HR is certify to the commission those folks who we deem eligible for appointment based on the Charter and policies we have here," Murphy said. "Who is hired is up to the commission."

    Lyons said the Fire Commission had nothing to do with the photographs.

    "We did not ask for it and we did not order it. Maybe Human Resources ordered it or the department did. I don't know," he said.

    Lyons said he does not know what the photographs would be used for.

    One of the applicants who believes he didn't get a fair opportunity questioned how the city could hire firefighters who didn't do well on an exam for which all of the answers are in the study guide.

    "If these people aren't dedicated enough to crack open a book for two months, what makes you think they're dedicated enough to run into a burning building?" he said.


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    Scoring high on the test doesn't necessarily guarantee that you'll be hired. If you can score a 100 on exam, does that mean you're intelligent, not really.

    It means you can read, write, and spell. It also means that you'll be the first to be interviewed, that's it, bottom line. There are other contributing factors that allow you not to be hired.

    Were the cadidates 1-3 minutes late for the interview? Did they shave for the interview? Did they wear jeans to the interview? Did they use a profantity word during their interview? Did they give the notion that they could perhaps be a little sexist or racist during the interview? Did they appear to be cocky during the interview?

    The list goes on and on...

    It's also been my experience that the #1 test scorer, doesn't always have all of the necessarly qualifications that are required for hiring ie: (medic licenses, college degree, FFI or FFII, G.E.D or high school diploma, etc.)

    If you didn't get the job, you didn't get the job, quit your complaining.

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    "Two of the four job offers were made to sons of Stamford Fire & Rescue firefighters. The mayor's nephew, Brien Malloy, Fire Chief Robert McGrath's son, Michael McGrath, and Fire Commissioner E. Gaynor Brennan's son, Christopher Brennan, were among the eight alternates.

    One of the new hires -- Scott Avalos, son of Fire Capt. William Avalos -- and alternates Christopher Brennan and Michael McGrath were in the third rank, meaning they were in the group that had the lowest scores of the 120 candidates eligible to be hired.

    James Romaniello of Stamford, son of Fire Capt. James Romaniello, scored an 82, the second-highest mark on the test, and was hired."



    SmokeNPhyer
    You don't think that the above part of the article adds a little suspicion to their hiring procedures? Some candidates aren't best suited for the position, but that doesn't mean their family automatically is best suited. This type of hiring in the fire service needs to stop. It is giving a bad name to firefighters like these and all human resource personnel. As a human resource official I don't know how they allow this to go on. They are asking to get sued. They should abolish the list and start over. Yes, it will cost money, but it is the right thing to do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smokeNphyer
    Were the cadidates 1-3 minutes late for the interview? Did they shave for the interview? Did they wear jeans to the interview? Did they use a profantity word during their interview? Did they give them notion that they could perhaps be a little sexist or racist during the interview? Did they appear to be cocky during the interview?
    I believe the oral part of the process should be eliminated. Since it is subjective.

    There should be a written exam, a physical exam and the list established. The candidates will be indentified by some type of anonymous method.

    If the top 50 candidates just happen to be white males, so be it. But at least all candidates know they have a chance to be successful in the hiring process and won't have to worry about any of the idiosyncracies you identified that might occur in an oral interview.
    Politics is like driving. To go forward select "D", to go backward select "R."

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    Default Stamford CT Firefighter exam results under fire

    I am kind of biased because I was in the top percentile on this test. I knew something was fishy but when I sat down at my desk this morning and opened the paper and read the article my suspicions were confirmed. Is anyone surprised by this? Connecticut has been doing this for years. I guess Stamford will join New Haven and Bridgeport as cities with lawsuits pending against their unfair hires. This is a disgrace. One pays $30 for the written test, $75 for the CPAT, and it turns out to be fixed. It just doesn't seem fair to the guy who busts his a** to study, do well, and then get screwed by them hiring the FD Chief's son who had one of the lowest scores on the test. Everybody denies it- but these guys have jobs and I don't. The question I pose is when do we as firefighters stop becoming interested in trying to get a job at these types of departments just because we want to fulfill the dream of becoming a career firefighter?
    At least the volunteers don't discriminate.
    Hopfully Norwich is on the up and up??????

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    I'd like to start off by saying that the oral interview should not be dropped off the list.

    There's alot of variables that are seen in the oral. Face the facts, if you dress like a bum to the interview, 9 out of 10 chief's wouldn't hire you. If you don't care about your personal appearance, as a chief, why would I think you would care anymore about the departments appearance.

    For those guys that are chief's kids, they have a HUGE advantage before the test even started. They've been around the department alot longer. Their character has already been proven, that they aren't going to be a problem for the department.

    Not to mention, put them up against the average joe on general knowledge of the fire service, they'd probably win hands down.

    Let's see...I can hire Joe, with no experience and I don't know what kind of bs he could bring to the department, or I can go with the Chief's kid who I know alot more about.

    Not every Chief's kid wants to be a firefighter either. My Chief's kid won't come near the station and has absolutly no desire to be a FF.

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    Where does that leave the rest of us who score higher, are professional, and don't have daddy's who are firefighters? Obviously the chief's son didn't score well enough on the test to warrant his position and why assume that someone "outside the department" is a liability? In fact I also scored higher than the mayor's nephew as well. Do you think that the mayor's nephew is a well known guy around the department who has been there for years? If you want to hire the chief's son from the start- do me a favor just hire him and don't waste MY time or money on a HOPELESS dream.

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    I agree with whaler. If someone is all the negatives you assume by not interviewing him (or her), they can be washed out in the probationary period.

    Secondly. I have seen some of the scions get jobs who weren't exactly 'balls of fire' because they knew the right people.

    Your scenario has just as many potential negatives as mine.
    Politics is like driving. To go forward select "D", to go backward select "R."

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    I am so very disappointed to read an article such as this. I believe that people are honest and those who work hard prevail. This really disappoints me.

    I can understand your frustration, but here's my advice. CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL. Don't waste energy on something that is only going to frustrate you.

    I scored #1 at Inglewood and was passed over when they hired 7 people and I scored #5 at Chula Vista and was passed over.

    Looking back on it I am so grateful the way things worked out.

    Lastly, if a department is so blatent in their hiring practices, imagine how they would be with their promotional process. Count your blessings and move on.

    Smoknphyr wrote:
    "For those guys that are chief's kids, they have a HUGE advantage before the test even started. They've been around the department alot longer. Their character has already been proven, that they aren't going to be a problem for the department.

    Not to mention, put them up against the average joe on general knowledge of the fire service, they'd probably win hands down.

    Let's see...I can hire Joe, with no experience and I don't know what kind of bs he could bring to the department, or I can go with the Chief's kid who I know alot more about."

    I completely disagree with hiring Chief's kids. I am a Chief and I would not want my kid hired because of MY acccomplishments. If you are a firefighter's kid and you wave it in my face in an interview I will score you lower.

    I have a great deal of interaction with people seeking entry-level positions. It really bothers me to see a firefighter's kid who believes that he is entitled to a job. In their mind it's a right of passage. Some of the most incredible entry-level candidates I have come across are firefighter's kids. Some of the most illprepared, clueless candidates are firefighter's kids.

    I recently ran into a candidate who has several relatives on my job. He was volunteering his time to get noticed for a round of upcoming hiring. When I ran into his relative the next day I mentioned the encounter. When I asked the firefighter if his sibling was enrolled in fire science courses, he was too busy for that SH*T because he worked a full-time job.

    This firefighter was hired because of his relative's reputation. He now believed that the next relative was entitled a position.

    This is completely unfair to the men and women who have worked hard and EARNED a job. If a firefighter's kid works hard, scores well on the exam and is mature enough for the position, then and only then should he or she be considered for the position.

    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief
    Last edited by BCLepore; 12-22-2005 at 08:39 PM.

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    If you can score a 100 on exam, does that mean you're intelligent, not really.
    It means you can read, write, and spell.
    My posts reflect my views and opinions, not the organization I work for or my IAFF local. Some of which they may not agree. I.A.C.O.J. member
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    Quote Originally Posted by SPFDRum
    I second that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smokeNphyer
    Scoring high on the test doesn't necessarily guarantee that you'll be hired. If you can score a 100 on exam, does that mean you're intelligent, not really.
    I have to agree. If this is not indicative of intelligence, then what is?

    You justify hiring lesser candidates because they did nothing more than choose the right parents.
    Politics is like driving. To go forward select "D", to go backward select "R."

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    I guess what fustrates me most, if that this practice happens in every industry. People get passed over for jobs all the time.

    I won't necessarily retract any of my statements, but like the BC said, you can only control certain things.

    Take it with a grain of salt. If you're really THAT upset about spending 75 bucks to get a great job which didn't work out, you really don't belong in this service.

    I sympathize with your situation and I can honestly say that it would bother me a little bit. However, I'd move on and test with another department. It pays to do a little research about the department that you apply with.

    There are certain departments in my area that I haven't and won't test with. I've stopped by their department and just let them know that I was considering testing with them. Most of the time they'll let me look around and bs with the crew that's on shift that day. I'll even go to the extent of looking at their annual report to see how many calls they run, what shift or station runs the most, etc.

    This may be something that you want to do before you apply with another department.

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    SMOKENYPHER: where are you coming from with those statements? Getting a 100 on a test doesn't show imtelligence? Of course it does-unintelligent people do not score 100's. Competency as a FF? No, probably not. And what does being a chief's son have to do with character? Character is built, not a title bestowed upon you because your father is a chief. Please help me understand as I scored a 100 on a writtrn test and am obviously not intelligent.

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    Thumbs down

    I was also in the top rank for Stamford. I would like to move on, as stated in your post SmokeNPhyer, and I will, but it seems that more and more departments are like this. You don't understand that most departments in CT don't even tell you what you scored. The reason that Stamford has become an issue is because they are one of the few departments in the state which actually disclosed applicants test scores. They got caught because people knew they got screwed, because they had the knowledge that they scored higher than the people who got hired. Most departments in CT won't tell you what you scored which then leaves the option of hiring ANYONE they want and no one can do a damn thing about it.

    You can't prove what isn't public knowledge. If you call civil service they say they can not disclose that information. I took one police officer test in CT and all the information regarding scores and hiring was made public as soon as it was available. What is with all the secrets when it comes to fire tests???? It certainly makes me wonder and pretty much assume that they are doing whatever they want for whoever they want which sucks for the rest of us.

    When you take a firefighter test in CT, the first thing all the testing companies say at the test site, is if you are caught cheating you will be removed from the process and potentially prosecuted. So I didn't cheat on the test, but I feel that the department cheated me. How do I get to prosecute? I don't because if I do, I can kiss a firefighter job goodbye, as I would be blackballed by the entire CT fire service. It definitely isn't a fair system. I agree with BC Lepore that if the Chief in Stamford hires like this I can only imagine how he promotes. Maybe his son will be his next deputy chief :-)???

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    Guys- I know this sucks during the holidays especially. All your points are valid. Keep plugging and something good will happen. I know it may be no consolation. The only thing that stopped you this time was a corrupt department. Do your research on the departments you're interested in so you don't set yourself up for disappointment in the future, and maybe next time it will be the one.

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    Default The questionable hiring of firefighters

    The questionable hiring of firefighters


    The questionable hiring of firefighters Published January 5 2006

    Published January 5 2006


    Critics decry the system used to select paid firefighters for the Stamford Fire & Rescue department. Who can blame them? The system appears to be rife with cronyism and conflicts of interest. No one seems willing or able to explain why relatives and friends of current firefighters, city officials -- even members of the commission that does the hiring -- are offered jobs over applicants who score higher on firefighter exams. The interview process is a mystery; the criteria used to select firefighters vague. Unless someone can offer a better justification for the status quo, a complete overhaul of the selection system is necessary.

    Advocate Staff Writer Donna Porstner, a Stamford government reporter, began writing about the city's failure to attract more women and racial minorities to the firefighting force about a month ago. That is a long-standing problem, and it is not unique to Stamford. Mayor Dannel Malloy and other city officials have some strategies they'd like to try. But while that subject merits attention, the immediate need is to make sure that criteria used to hire all firefighters are clear, spelled out, fair and evenly applied to all applicants, regardless of personal connections. Well-qualified people -- not those who know someone -- ought to get these jobs, which can lead to good-paying, rewarding careers with the city. The average base salary for a city firefighter is $61,218.

    Among other things, Ms. Porstner has reported that some men who scored high enough on firefighter exams to be considered top hires recently were passed over for jobs, while some with personal connections got job offers. Two of the four hired for recent openings were sons of Stamford Fire & Rescue firefighters, but only one of those two men -- James Romaniello, the son of fire Capt. James Romaniello -- stood out on the test. The other, Scott Avalos, son of Capt. William Avalos and a Hispanic, had a much lower score.

    Among the eight alternates who are next in line for jobs were the mayor's nephew, Brien Malloy; Fire Chief Robert McGrath's son, Michael McGrath; and Christopher Brennan, the son of E. Gaynor Brennan. The elder Brennan sits on the Fire Commission that does the hiring.

    Two of these alternates, Brien Malloy and Christopher Brennan, actually received jobs offers earlier this month when spots opened up in the fire department. The offers were rescinded because the Fire Commission did not vote on the hires; a "miscommunication" between the city's Human Resources Department and the Fire Commission was blamed. Whether the Fire Commission will offer jobs -- and if so, to whom -- is not clear. The commission is scheduled to meet this month.

    A lack of clearly identified hiring criteria is one big problem for the bipartisan, five-member Fire Commission.

    Applicants who pass a physical agility test can take the written firefighter exam. The commission interviews those who pass that test. Chairman Richard Lyons has said the interview is important to the final determination. That makes a lot of sense. But the interviews must be thorough and structured to provide insight into the leadership abilities and other personal qualities of the applicants. Commission members won't talk, not even in the broadest terms, about the questions they ask or the skills and abilities they are seeking.

    Nor is it clear that the same hiring standards are used for all applicants -- in other words, that the process is fair. That is a very serious concern. Three of the men who scored high on the exam told Ms. Porstner that their interviews lasted two or three minutes and included no personal questions. One applicant said he merely was asked to verify his address and employer. If those reports are accurate, then it's no wonder that these men believe you have to be on the inside to get a paid firefighter's job in Stamford. The fire department won't be more diverse or representative of the city as a whole until the mayor and Stamford Board of Representatives change that perception.

    Under the circumstances, it would be better if the relatives and friends of current firefighters, city officials and members of the Fire Commission look outside Stamford's department when applying for firefighters' job. The city needs to make it clear that cronyism and nepotism will not be tolerated, at least until it develops more specific guidelines for the interviews and more concrete hiring practices are put into place.

    This is no reflection on the qualifications of those applicants or on the fire department, and we recognize that the city could lose some fine candidates if it adopts this approach. But we're confident that other good candidates exist. And it would be one of the fastest ways to change a very troubling perception.

    Copyright © 2006, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

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    The hiring process every where in the country is messed up. Why? Cause its a highly coveted positon. When thousands take a test for a few hundred jobs, problems occur. I have heard people say "tough" when people complain about paying to take tests that then arent really used in the hiring process. Im just truely interested in how a passing score can be 47% of the correct answers. Thats a joke and damn close to the recent LT. written exam here in philly. Since when did a passing score in anything drop below 70%?
    Just another one of the 99%ers looking up.

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    Default Fire Commission hiring records unavailable

    Fire Commission hiring records unavailable
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    By Donna Porstner
    Staff Writer

    Published January 11 2006


    STAMFORD CT -- The Fire Commission has not made public the records of meetings at which it decided the mayor's nephew and a commissioner's son would be next in line for firefighting jobs.

    By designating Christopher Brennan, son of fire Commissioner E. Gaynor Brennan, and Brien Malloy, nephew of Mayor Dannel Malloy, as alternates, the commission put them at the top of the hiring list.

    Applicants who scored high on the hiring exam but were not offered jobs have questioned why the commission would hire friends and relatives over more qualified applicants.

    No records of last year's fire commission meetings were available for public inspection at the city clerk's office or fire headquarters until Monday, when, after repeated requests by The Advocate to review the records, the commission filed nearly two year's worth of minutes with the city clerk.

    It is clear when the documents were filed because workers in the clerk's office stamp them with the date they are received.

    The mass filing includes a record of the action taken at eight commission meetings in 2004 and only the September meeting in 2005. There are no records on file for November 2005, when 120 firefighter applicants were interviewed by the commission, or for the Dec. 13 meeting, at which Christopher Brennan and Brien Malloy were expected to be hired.

    The commission took no action in December but is expected to fill the job openings when it meets Jan. 17.

    Under the state Freedom of Information Act, minutes of public meetings must be made available to the public within seven days. Records of how each commission member voted on an issue are supposed to be available within 48 hours.

    The Advocate filed a complaint yesterday against the Fire Commission with the Freedom of Information Commission.

    Fire Commissioner Richard Lyons, a Democrat who has been on the panel for 10 years, said yesterday he is not familiar with state laws governing public records but said its not about tests scores. He said the minutes of the December meeting will be available today after he signs them and makes them official.

    His signature is not on any of the other meeting minutes. Brennan signed them all.

    Lyons said he didn't know the commission was not filing records with the city clerk because he thought Brennan was taking care of it.

    "I was under the impression they were being filed," Lyons said. "Gaynor Brennan is the secretary. It's his job to get them down there."

    Unlike the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Harbor Commission, which pay someone to take minutes at each meeting, fire commissioners record their own minutes. Its five members are volunteers who serve three-year terms.

    Brennan said he's not the secretary, but he has been taking the minutes for the 19 years he has served on the commission. During that time, he had his secretary at his law office type the minutes, fax a copy to fire headquarters, then mail the original there, Brennan said. He assumed someone at fire headquarters was sending a copy to the clerk's office, he said.

    Lyons told him recently that no meeting minutes were on file in the clerk's office, Brennan said, so he went into his secretary's computer and printed all the minutes he could find for the past two years, then brought them to the clerk's office.

    Brennan said he is certain there was more than one month of minutes last year, but that's all he could find.

    "I know I've done others for 2005. Where they are, I don't know," he said.

    Brennan said there shouldn't be minutes for every month because some of the meetings were canceled, sometimes he was ill, and sometimes a meeting was uneventful and he didn't take notes.

    "Some months we came in and said 'hello' and 'goodbye,' and when that happened, I didn't do minutes," he said.

    When The Advocate called fire headquarters last week, a clerk said there were no fire commission records available, and a reporter should contact Lyons.

    Malloy, who appoints the fire commissioners, did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.

    Copyright © 2006, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc

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    Default More is needed to fix hiring process

    More is needed to fix hiring process


    Published January 13 2006


    Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy is taking some sensible steps in response to allegations of cronyism and nepotism in the city Fire Department. It's a solid start in the right direction. But we'd like to see more. It's the only way to restore public confidence in the system.

    Mr. Malloy has directed the city's human resources director to review processes and procedures used by city boards and commissions, with a focus on the Police and Fire commissions because they have hiring authority. The mayor also is taking a second step. He is asking the citizen volunteers who head city boards and commissions to attest in writing that they will comply with Connecticut open record and freedom of information laws.

    In recent days, Advocate Staff Writer Donna Porstner has reported that the Fire Commission had not made public its agendas or reports of action taken at meetings where firefighters are hired. Information must be filed with the city clerk's office under state law by any board or commission doing the city's business. Ms. Porstner's dogged pursuit of this story also includes reporting that Fire Commission minutes fail to reflect specifics about hiring decisions, such as which members were present and voting and the nature of debate. Richard Lyons, the chairman of the Fire Commission, told Ms. Porstner that he is unfamiliar with state requirements.

    This is a lot more than a boring controversy over legalese and paper. There are serious allegations about nepotism and cronyism in the Fire Department. Applicants who scored high on firefighter exams say they are being passed over for jobs in favor of those who don't score as well on the tests but are friends or relatives of Fire Commission members, current firefighters and city officials. The son of a Fire Commission member has been on the short list for an opening in the department, along with the mayor's nephew. We have not heard similar allegations about hiring in the Police Department, but the procedures used to fill those jobs are similar, so the matter is worth reviewing.

    E. Gaynor Brennan, the Fire Commission member whose son is awaiting a job, and Mayor Malloy maintain they have not said Word One to help family members. Mr. Malloy said he was not even aware that his nephew had applied. The mayor has a big family and that is plausible. But the beauty of family, friends and influence is that words are not necessary. All commission members need to do is see is the name on the application and act accordingly.

    This is not to say that Mr. Brennan's son, Christopher, or Mr. Malloy's nephew, Brien Malloy, are unqualified or would make bad hires. They might be excellent candidates when personal skills or leadership potential are taken into account. But under the circumstances, they should not be considered for firefighting jobs in Stamford at this time, nor should relatives or friends of current firefighters or other city officials. A moratorium needs to be imposed, at least until the matter is settled. Those with no ties to power and influence in Stamford should get these jobs.

    More should be done, too, to ensure compliance with open government laws. Members of city boards and commissions are encouraged to attend periodic seminars on these laws, but the city's legal director admits that attendance is sparse. We recognize that these are volunteers, but they ought to attend at least one session on the law with a representative of the state's Freedom of Information Commission.

    Stamford also should follow the lead of some other Connecticut municipalities and form a city advisory board on freedom of information issues. Such boards serve as liaisons between municipalities, local officials and the state Freedom of Information Commission. They also make suggestions and act as a clearinghouse for open record and freedom of information laws.

    Some Fire Commission members have observed that they are performing their duties no differently than their predecessors. Maybe so. But if that is the case, then this is one remnant of small-town life that Stamford should not hesitate to eliminate.

    Copyright © 2006, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

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