For the second time this year, results of an exam to promote Atlanta firefighters have been compromised. This time, it wasn't accusations of cheating; the city said its own test format was improper.
"The rank and file are frustrated, that's what they are," said Jim Daws, president of Atlanta's Professional Firefighters Association.
He said there is no excuse for yet another round of firefighter promotions getting held up.
On Aug. 15, 115 firefighters took the exam. It was supposed to contain 90 multiple choice questions. Instead it had 100. There was also a section of the test that was not listed in the study materials.
"The test should have been screened and checked for compliance with standard operating procedure before it was given," said Daws. "I'm not saying it's understandable that this could happen, but when you're trying to do the job of two or three people, mistakes will happen; it's just a damn shame it happened to a promotional exam."
Roughly 25 to 30 firefighters were eligible to be promoted to the rank of sergeant, which would have included a pay raise. Channel 2 Action News obtained an internal memo saying the promotions are "discontinued until further notice."
Sergeants usually drive and operate the engine and ladder trucks.
"It's probably one of the most critical jobs on our department. You're really not going to be able to fulfill our mission if you can't get to the scene safely and be able to operate those apparatus once you arrive, said Daws."
Earlier this year, lieutenant promotions were put on hold when firefighters allegedly cheated on those exams. That issue is still pending in court.
Daws said, "The firefighters are very upset this is the second testing process that has been held up because of controversy and irregularities, and their career ambitions keep getting frustrated because the department doesn't seem to be able to get its act together."
The city said public safety will not be compromised because there are enough firefighters already doing the sergeant's job on a provisional basis. But Daws said public safety could suffer due to low morale.
"You cannot continue to frustrate the career aspirations of dedicated public safety employees without having a negative impact on morale, and that will reflect itself in day to day operations."
The city has decided to hire an outside company to write a new test and handle others in the future. The union president applauds that move. There is no word on when the replacement test will be ready.
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