YOUNGSTOWN Panel, fire chief reach deal on minority hiring

The human relations commission is returning to handling landlord-tenant disputes and tackling predatory lending.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A deal has been reached over minority hiring in the fire department without waiving any city rules.
One black and three white firefighters all will join the department by week's end, said William M. Carter, executive director of the city human relations commission.
Chief John J. O'Neill Jr. wanted a waiver to a city rule saying one minority or female should be hired for every two white male firefighters. The white candidates all were ready to be hired. The minority candidates, however, each needed four to six weeks' more training. O'Neill said he needed to make the hirings immediately to cut big overtime spending.
The commission and the chief worked out a deal to hire the three whites with a written guarantee that the minority candidates would be hired later. The department expects to hire up to a dozen more firefighters later this year to bring itself to full strength.
While that was happening, it was discovered one minority candidate had received the needed training in the military rather than regular schooling. That made him eligible to be hired immediately, too.
The city decided there was enough money to make that hiring now, also, Carter said.
Landlord-tenant disputes
The commission also agreed to handle landlord-tenant disputes.
The human relations office used to handle such issues. About four years ago, however, the commission decided to end that service. Instead, people were referred to free legal services or the state attorney general's office.
Many people, however, need help much more quickly, Carter said. People being evicted can't wait for the legal system or the state, he said.
About 65 percent of all housing cases are landlord-tenant disputes that don't rise to the level of federal fair housing violations, Carter added.
Lending law
The commission approved pursuing development of an anti-predatory lending law.
It recommended the city hire Avery Friedman, a nationally known fair housing lawyer, to develop such a law. He would be paid $10,000.
Predatory lending generally happens when a lender issues a loan which the borrower clearly cannot afford. The practice takes many forms, from adding unreasonable balloon payments, fees and late charges to falsifying loan applications.
Once the law is in place, the city becomes eligible for a $340,000 federal grant to investigate fair-housing issues across the area, Carter said.

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