Austintown man questions Youngstown residency bonus for civil service tests

By David Skolnick


An Austintown man who wants to be a Youngstown police officer says he plans to file a lawsuit against the city questioning the legality of giving a 15-percent bonus on entry-level civil service tests to city residents.

Shon J. McNeal, a police officer for Humility of Mary Health Partners and a Trumbull County Sheriff’s reserve officer, challenged the Youngstown-resident bonus, saying it isn’t constitutional. The bonus is given to those who have lived in the city for at least one year before taking a written civil-service test as long as they get a score of at least 70 percent, which is considered a passing grade.

In response to a request for a legal opinion from the city’s civil service commission, Deputy Law Director Anthony Donofrio said the policy — overwhelmingly approved Nov. 8, 2011, by city residents as a charter amendment — is legal.

The “commission has no discretion and must allow bonus points pursuant to the charter and ordinances of the city,” he said.

The commission voted 3-0 Wednesday to reject McNeal’s appeal.

McNeal said, “A 21-year-old kid in Youngstown with no law enforcement experience gets a 15-percent bonus because of where he lives. I live 1 mile from the Youngstown line and have been an officer for 10 years, and I don’t get that 15-percent bonus.”

McNeal acknowledges he didn’t do well on the most recent Youngstown police test, finishing 62nd. He finished 21st on the test last year.

“It has no bearing on me because they won’t hire me because of where I placed,” McNeal said of the residency-bonus law. “But there are issues of fairness and equality. No one wants to challenge anything because of fear of not being hired.”

If McNeal files a lawsuit, the city would seek a motion to dismiss because “he doesn’t have standing. He placed too low on the list,” Donofrio said.

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