Despite offers, 8 must wait to become firefighters: Officials hope to get funds by end of year
By Natasha Lee
September 7, 2007
STAMFORD - A former fire commissioner's son and the son of a city representative were among eight new firefighters hired yesterday for positions to be filled when funding is available.
The firefighters will join Stamford Fire & Rescue once the department is able to save $539,000 to pay for salaries and benefits. City officials hope to officially hire them by Dec. 31.
The chosen included four recently laid-off firefighters who were given priority selection and four candidates taken from the city's hiring list.
The Fire Commission called a special meeting yesterday to pick the new firefighters.
The selection comes days before Wednesday's city deadline for choosing top-scoring candidates from the hiring list. After the deadline, selection could occur from the ranks of lower-scoring candidates. The list expires in September 2008.
City officials say having the firefighters on standby before the list expires will reduce the time it takes the city and commission to develop a new hiring list.
The hiring also follows citywide budget cuts and layoffs of 16 full-time city employees, including the four firefighters formerly employed at Belltown and Glenbrook volunteer fire departments.
The four firefighters were laid off in an effort to reduce overtime costs at the two departments after both withdrew from a city plan to increase staffing and fire protection in those districts.
The veteran firefighters were placed on a city mandatory re-employment list that allows them to be rehired as openings become available. The four are former Belltown paid firefighters Fabio Basile and Paul Melchinonno, both of Stamford, Michael Orawsky of Darien and former Glenbrook paid firefighter Herman Naring of Norwalk.
The other four candidates - including Christopher Brennan, son of former Commissioner E. Gaynor Brennan Jr., and Paul Esposito, son of city Rep. Paul Esposito, D-4 - were selected from the hiring list. Commissioner Brennan stepped down in February after 20 years.
The list includes 120 candidates grouped into three ranks based on their written test scores, though commissioners have said interviews are the most important hiring factor.
None of the new hires selected from the list were ranked in the top tier.
According to the list, Esposito and new hire Dominick Errico, both of Stamford, were in the second rank, the group that had average scores. New hire James Doherty of Fairfield, and Brennan, who lives in Norwalk, were in the third rank, the group that had the lowest scores of eligible candidates.
The four fire commissioners, Chairman Richard Lyons, Donald Rozier, Leandro Rizzuto Jr. and Marilyn Dussault - the last of whom participated via speaker phone from Florida - voted in favor of hiring the selected personnel.
"I remember all of those young men . . . and I'm very impressed," Dussault said just before the vote. "I have no problem with those recommendations. I think they're excellent."
Fire Chief Robert McGrath told commissioners yesterday he recused himself from the selection process because of a conflict of interest stemming from 2005, when his son, Michael, took the firefighter exam.
Michael McGrath was named an alternate hire and later declined a job offer.
The fire chief told commissioners that though there was no current conflict of interest, he had not been present for any interviews and had turned over the duty of recommending candidates to Assistant Fire Chief John McCabe.
McCabe told the commission the recommendations were based on the list which is compiled based on the written test score, interviews and physical testing. Yesterday's meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.
This marks the third time Brennan has been offered work with Stamford Fire & Rescue. In 2005, he had two offers rescinded in a month.
In 2005, the commission was accused of nepotism and unfair hiring practices after applicants with lower scores were offered jobs rather than those with higher scores.
The commission changed its hiring policies and for the first time added a score to the procedures.
According to an analysis of the scoring done by The Advocate this year, only five other applicants scored lower than Brennan on the written test; they averaged 55 out of a possible score of 93 and 4 out of 10 in the interview.
In the same analysis, Errico was within the top five applicants in the second rank, with an average score of 73 on the written test, and a 5.8 on the interview. There were 18 applicants who ranked higher than Esposito but weren't offered jobs.
In the analysis, Esposito scored a 4.3 on the interview and a 71 on the written test. Doherty ranks 17th within the third, or lowest rank, with a 58 on the written score and a 4.7 on the interview.
Human resources generalist Felicia Wirzbicki, who oversees the hiring of city firefighters, said she plans to send job offer letters by today, but added there was no rush because there is no funding to pay the new employees.
Stamford Fire & Rescue has to reduce its salary spending by more than $500,000 to fund the positions.
The department was budgeted to hire four new firefighters this year, but officials can't spend the money because of budget cuts. The additional four positions resulted from retirements and a promotion this year.
The job offer letters will not include a date of employment but will provide a pre-employment offer and a number that shows the order in which the recipient will be hired, with veteran firefighters given priority.
Starting salary for city firefighters is about $41,700 and increases to about $64,000 in five years, Wirzbicki said.
Once hired, the firefighters will complete a 16-week course at the state fire academy in Windsor Locks.
Copyright © 2007, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.
Looks like Stamford hired more family Members !!!
Do they look at the List??????