The president of the Firebird Society of Bridgeport has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to investigate concerns about the city’s hiring and promotional practices in the Fire Department he claims have impacted black and female candidates.
The Firebird Society represents the city’s black firefighters. The organization’s President Joel Christy claims that the city’s hiring practices have been changed “for the benefit of white suburban males and to the detriment of Blacks and women.”
City Attorney Mark Anastasi has issued a statement in response to the claims. “We do state categorically that the City of Bridgeport does not discriminate against blacks or women or any other groups or individuals in any of its hiring or promotional practices, including those for the Bridgeport Police and Fire Departments.”
Christy’s letter to Holder follows, in part:
We are asking for a Department of Justice investigation of the Bridgeport Fire Department, the Civil Service Department and the methods used by this new Director of Civil Service David Dunn and Fire Chief Brian Rooney in eliminating Blacks and Women from being hired and/or promoted in the Bridgeport Fire Department. We are also asking for this investigation because SAFER grant money was used to hire this fire recruit class.
As the current President of the Firebird Society of Bridgeport, CT., Inc., I am deeply concerned that the Bridgeport Fire Department had reverted to its days of discrimination against black & women candidates that aspire to be firefighters as well as those that aspire to be officers. The City of Bridgeport Fire has a long and infamous history of discrimination within the Fire Department going back to 1976 when a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Black community. Federal Judge Gilroy Daily found a pattern of discrimination by the City of Bridgeport against Blacks and found the city liable for its discriminating practices which resulted in 76 Blacks, Latinos and women being hired and approximately 5.2 million dollars for back pay and punitive damages. The lawsuit filed in 1976 lead to hiring, back pay, promotions and sweeping changes in the hiring and promotion of Blacks in the Bridgeport fire service. Over the last 25 years Blacks and Women had no problems getting hired or promoted within the Bridgeport Fire department until the hiring of David Dunn, as the new Director of the Civil Service and Brian Rooney as the new fire chief.
In 2005 past presidents Donald Day and Ronald Mackey went to City Councilman Charles Clemons with a proposal that would give City of Bridgeport residents an extra 10% on all entry level exams for city jobs. They found that the city resident on the Bridgeport Fire Department hiring list from 1998, who was 286 of hiring list and was given 10% on their score, would have moved that candidate from 286 to number 50 on the hiring list. They also found that of the top fifty on the hiring list 44 of them would have been Black, Latino and women city residents.
They found that if given preference points Blacks, Latinos and women from the City of Bridgeport would have a built in affirmative action program by virtue of the fact that they are Bridgeport residents and not many Bridgeport residents who were white were taking these exams. Councilman Clemons presented our preference point proposal to the Bridgeport City Council leaving out the built in affirmative action part and it was passed unanimously and implemented for the entry level exam administered in 2006. The results of this effort lead the City of Bridgeport to hire fifteen white males, fourteen Blacks, fifteen Latinos and four women as Bridgeport firefighters, which is representative of the racial make-up of Bridgeport, CT. We believe that because this effort was so successful in hiring Blacks and women for the fire service that the new Civil Service Director, David Dunn and the current Chief of the Bridgeport Department, Brian Rooney conspired to change the hiring process for the benefit of white suburban males and to the detriment of Blacks and women.