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Judge: FDNY minority hiring practices will be monitored

By Julie Cannold, CNN
updated 11:04 PM EDT, Thu October 6, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Official monitor will oversee FDNY hiring practices, federal judge rules
  • Monitoring will be in place for at least 10 years, Judge Nicholas Garaufis says
  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg defends his record for improving minority recruiting
  • However, Garaufis says testing and hiring procedures are discriminatory

New York (CNN) -- A federal judge has ordered that an official monitor be put in place to prevent discrimination in the hiring of New York City firefighters.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis said the city needs "to comprehensively reassess its policies and practices, to analyze the evidence showing the effect of those policies and practices, and to rationally consider how they can be changed to achieve a firefighter hiring process that is -- in actual practice and effect -- fair and open to all."

The order requires the city to take remedial steps to fix discriminatory hiring practices and puts the court monitor in place for at least the next 10 years to make sure those steps are taken.

Garaufis cited "the clear evidence of disparate impact that Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg and his senior leadership chose to ignore was obvious to anyone else who looked."

"Instead of facing hard facts and asking hard questions about the City's abysmal track record of hiring black and Hispanic firefighters, the Bloomberg Administration dug in and fought back," the judge said in his ruling.

Mark LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor, said the city intends to appeal the decision.

Litigation against the city's firefighter hiring practices began in 2007, when the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint alleging the Fire Department of New York's hiring exams negatively affected black and Hispanic applicants.

"Four years of litigation and two adverse liability rulings later, the City still doesn't get it," Garaufis said. "The City's senior leaders have routinely denied that they are responsible or doing anything to remedy nearly forty years of discrimination."

Bloomberg strongly disagreed with the decision.

"I think it's fair to say no previous administration has done more or been as successful in attracting the diversity to the FDNY than we have," the mayor told reporters Wednesday, "and I couldn't feel more strongly about it."

Bloomberg said 61,000 people, more than half of them minorities, applied to the fire department in the last recruiting campaign, "shattering any previous record for minority applicants."

Garaufis acknowledged that the city has improved its minority recruiting, but he said the subsequent hiring processes and "discriminatory testing procedures" have kept many of these minorities from actually being hired.

Paul Washington, a representative of the Vulcan Society, one of the plaintiffs in the case, praised the decision.

"We're very pleased to see this order and it's certainly long overdue," Washington said. "We're glad to see the judge properly addressing this issue."

Details of the court-appointed monitoring, as well as logistics for a future fairness hearing in which third parties will be able to express their opinions, is scheduled for October 20, said Darius Charney, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

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