Federal grant use by police causes deviation
The city is permitted to deviate from civil service rules, an official says.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The executive director of the city's human relations commission believes federal grants would have been jeopardized had the police department not hired minorities last summer.
William M. Carter said that in 1998 the city developed and had approved an Equal Employment Opportunity Plan through the U.S. Department of Justice. To ensure grants, the city had to be in compliance with the plan it devised to achieve equality in hiring opportunities, he said.
Carter provided The Vindicator with a 1998 document that shows how the city proposed to reach the goal of eliminating "under-utilization of minorities/females in its work force."
Aside from recruiting from minority organizations and schools, the affirmative action plan outlined for the justice department included, "in the short term," the use of section 124.90 of the Ohio Revised Code. The section is titled "The waiver of laws to avoid federally prohibited discrimination."
Carter said that as long as the city receives federal grants for the police department -- $520,714 for 2006 -- the Equal Employment Opportunity Plan has to be in place, and it is his understanding that the plan still allows for use of section 124.90, a deviation of the civil service laws.
A call placed Thursday to the Justice Department's office for civil rights in Washington, D.C., wasn't immediately returned. The office oversees the city's Equal Employment Opportunity Plan, records show.
Clearing this up
Carter said recent Vindicator stories about a police hiring lawsuit make it appear as though incompetents were employed last summer.
"That's not true," he said. "I understand the chagrin and anger [of those not hired], but the process in place allowed it to happen, to hire anyone on the civil service list."
Carter said if the judge on the case rules that the city erred when it deviated from civil service laws, "I can almost guarantee that the justice department will pull its grants."
The lawsuit calls into question the hiring of a black woman ranked No. 127 on the 2003 civil service eligibility roster for police. The woman, along with a black man (No. 10) and white woman (No. 13) were hired in June 2005. All three names appeared on a minority list culled from the master civil service roster.
The reverse discrimination lawsuit was filed by Youngstown attorney Dennis Haines on behalf of James Conroy, a white former city police officer who scored No. 4 on the civil service test. Haines argues that the city is not under a consent decree to deviate from civil service rules, which require that the top 10 scorers' names be submitted for each opening.
The city has responded that the hirings were made under section 124.90 of the Ohio Revised Code. The lawsuit is set for a hearing in May in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Last month, Law Director Iris Guglucello told the human relations commission that section 124.90 allows deviation from standard hiring practices but the reason has to be that federal law requires it. She also told the commission that the city doesn't have a reason to deviate because a federal consent decree that required minority hiring expired years ago.
Carter said Thursday that he has since supplied Guglucello with the city's Equal Employment Opportunity Plan documents that reference section 124.90. He said the law director advised him that he may be subpoenaed to testify at trial.
Guglucello has declined to comment on the pending lawsuit. Haines was not available Thursday to comment on Carter's assessment of the hiring process that bypassed high test scorers.
Level the field
Carter said the city can't do away with civil service tests but added there must be a way to level the playing field.
Carter was asked if he would have hired the woman who ranked No. 127 on the civil service exam, given that she showed deception on some questions during a pre-employment voice stress analysis test, or hired another minority who didn't show deception.
"I would have hired the one who passed the test, but let's say a distant cousin, for example, called me and said [No. 127] is his son's wife," Carter said. "What I'm saying is that it was the prerogative of" the hiring authority.
Carter said it falls to then-Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. to explain why he chose that woman over others.
Bush has said that, although the woman had a cloud over her, nothing could be substantiated after further investigation.
"A decision had to made, and I made it," Bush said.
Carter said when human beings make decisions, things won't always be perfect. He agreed that hiring a woman who ranked No. 127 "looks funny unless you understand the process." He pointed out that she was ranked No. 19 on the minority list.
Carter, meanwhile, said scoring No. 1 on a civil service test doesn't ensure that you will be hired. He said a black man who ranked No. 1 on a test for masonry repairman at the sewage treatment plant was bypassed for a white man who ranked No. 3. He said the treatment plant hiring was not affected by concern over federal grants.