By David Skolnick
The city has used the two lists for several years.
YOUNGSTOWN — The city will use two lists — one for white men, and one for minorities and females — to hire new employees for the last time.
The city has used the two lists to hire firefighters and police officers for several years. But a federal court ruling declaring the use of two lists by Shreveport, La., to be unconstitutional means Youngstown must do away with its lists.
Typically, Youngstown hired one minority and/or female for every two white men it hired for jobs with its police and fire departments as long as the applicants met all the requirements, said Mayor Jay Williams and Fire Chief John J. O’Neill Jr.
“We have a hiring pool that reflects the diversity of the community,” Williams said. Using the two lists “allowed us to achieve a diverse work force.”
On Wednesday, Williams is sponsoring an ordinance for city council’s consideration that would allow the fire department to hire nine to 11 firefighters from the two lists for the last time.
As for how many minorities and/or women would be hired, Williams said it could be one hire from that list for every two or three white male hires.
“All are qualified, and we’ll do this in a constitutional method,” he said. “We want to maintain our high standard of employees and give consideration to all applicants.”
The new policy wouldn’t rank those who passed the firefighter written test — applicants also must pass a physical-agility test — by the top scores, Williams said.
“As long as there’s not a separation [of lists], there’s no issue,” he said.
The old policy ranked potential employees by the top written score, as long as they also passed the agility test. Those in the top 10 could be selected for the jobs.
But Youngstown also had the second list, permissible under Ohio law.
That section refers to “the waiver of laws to avoid federally prohibited discrimination.” It reads: “The waiver, passed as an ordinance by city council, permits the legislative authority of a municipality to suspend or alter the appointment rules for minority hiring.”
Williams is working with the city’s civil-service commission to make other changes to the written test for firefighters and police officers.
Those wanting to be firefighters or police officers currently need a score of at least 70 on the written test.
That could be raised by five to seven points for future tests, Williams said.
(Firefighters also need to pass the physical agility test, which includes climbing a firefighter’s ladder, dragging a hose and simulating what to do during a fire. Police officers don’t need to pass a physical test.)
The new policy can’t go into place for the firefighter hirings because that test was given in June. Of the 185 applicants, 78 passed.
Of those who passed, the top minority finished 51st, O’Neill said.
The city’s current policy doesn’t sit well with Nate Janoviak of Newberry in Geauga County, who finished 43rd.
“I may have a decent chance for this time or perhaps the next round, but I’m getting knocked out by someone who did worse than me,” Janoviak said. “My test wasn’t different than anyone else. It’s reverse discrimination. The city is saying that they have enough white people” on the fire department.
When asked about charges of “reverse discrimination,” O’Neill said, “I don’t want to get caught in the middle of that.”
Williams said he doesn’t agree with the allegation, saying it’s important for the city to have a diverse work force.