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Order lifted on city hiring of firefighters


OCTOBER 18, 2010

Order lifted on city hiring of firefighters
Toledo, ABLE to establish committee for recruitment

The following article by Blade Staff Writer Ignazio Messina appeared October 15, 2010 in The Toledo Blade. Read below, or view the article on The Blade's website.

A federal consent decree that for more than three decades governed the city of Toledo's hiring and promotion practices for firefighters - particularly regarding race of applicants - has been withdrawn.

The city and Advocates For Basic Legal Equality agreed this week to vacate the court order from 1974 and U.S. District Judge David Katz on Wednesday signed that new order.

Instead of adhering to a federal consent decree, the city will institutionalize the mandates within the court order in its own civil service requirements and also create a citizens committee for firefighter recruitment and outreach, Toledo Law Director Adam Loukx said.

ABLE had filed a complaint in July claiming the city was not adhering to the 1974 court order and asked the U.S. District Court to stop the city from hiring a new class of firefighters this year.

OCTOBER 18, 2010

Order lifted on city hiring of firefighters
Toledo, ABLE to establish committee for recruitment

The following article by Blade Staff Writer Ignazio Messina appeared October 15, 2010 in The Toledo Blade. Read below, or view the article on The Blade's website.

A federal consent decree that for more than three decades governed the city of Toledo's hiring and promotion practices for firefighters - particularly regarding race of applicants - has been withdrawn.

The city and Advocates For Basic Legal Equality agreed this week to vacate the court order from 1974 and U.S. District Judge David Katz on Wednesday signed that new order.

Instead of adhering to a federal consent decree, the city will institutionalize the mandates within the court order in its own civil service requirements and also create a citizens committee for firefighter recruitment and outreach, Toledo Law Director Adam Loukx said.

ABLE had filed a complaint in July claiming the city was not adhering to the 1974 court order and asked the U.S. District Court to stop the city from hiring a new class of firefighters this year.

"The city's position has always been that we have hired in a way consistent with the consent decree in its aftermath," Mr. Loukx said. "It's our position that we have done that and we will continue to do that."

Ellen Grachek, a senior city attorney, called the consent decree a "landmark civil rights case."

"It is a hallmark of success in the civil rights movement as far as I am concerned and I think ABLE would say the same thing," Ms. Grachek said. "You are looking at a mayor who benefited from the work ABLE did in a time when it, we can agree, was necessary. Whether the discrimination was intentional or not is for history to decide."

Ms. Grachek acknowledged it was difficult for African-Americans in the early 1970s to be hired.

"The process of becoming a firefighter in Toledo did have barriers in 1972," she said. "Now, the fact that the plaintiffs and the city could come together and agree before a federal judge to vacate the order together - a hallmark of progress for the civil rights movement - because we have embedded, institutionally, a fair, unbiased, job-related mechanism for selection and hiring, those barriers are gone."

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, the city's second black mayor, was hired by the city in 1980 as a firefighter and paramedic. He was fire chief from 1990 to 2007.

"I believe the consent decree did exactly what it was supposed to do. It definitely diversified our fire department," Mr. Bell said last night. "We have one of the more diverse fire services in the United States and certainly in Ohio."

Aneel Chablani, director of advocacy for ABLE, said the new agreement is positive for both sides.

"The agreement incorporates the progress that has been made with testing and selection and creates this committee that has an impact on successful outreach and recruitment," Mr. Chablani said.

In August, Toledo City Council authorized the Bell administration to spend up to $50,000 to hire the Spengler Nathanson PLL law firm to defend the city against the lawsuit filed in federal court on July 15 by ABLE, contending Toledo had not met requirements for recruiting minorities as firefighters.

"Our motion focused on the aspects that focused on outreach and recruitment," Mr. Chablani said. "We did not believe the city was engaging in the type of continuous recruitment as required by the consent decree."

Under the new agreement, the city can begin hiring a class of firefighters recruits selected from a 2008 eligibility list. It will be the final class chosen from that list.

The new citizens committee, which is to meet quarterly, will consist of representatives from the Toledo Urban League; the NAACP; Adelante; the Glass City Black Brother United; ABLE; Toledo Public Schools; the city's human resources department; the city's assistant fire chief; a city law department representative, and other members as agreed upon by the committee.

Councilman D. Michael Collins said the city has exceeded its minority hiring standards.