new haven

Firefighters, Applicants Sue Over Lottery Advancement

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The New Haven Board of Fire Commissioners has 99 people that scored 100 points on the civil exam. So now the question is how do you choose 25 applicants to fill the city’s open positions?

“To me this is a good problem where people are energized, they can actually receive a chance to get one of the best careers that this city has to offer,” said Commissioner Steven Cousin.   

But now some of those applicants will have to wait. In 2019, the city held orientation sessions and study groups for the next round of hiring for the New Haven Fire Department.

The civil exam was given in November of that year and with bonus points were added to the exam scores of veterans and applicants from the city.

“We have those that are New Haven residents and then still get those additional ten points,” Cousin said.  

Which helped set up an impossible scenario: 99 people scored 100 points, ranking them all number one to move forward for 25 spots.

So, after waiting through the pandemic in 2020, the board decided to resume hiring with a lottery. That move was met with a lawsuit this week by current firefighters on behalf of applicants.

“The reason why I started this lawsuit is because the individuals behind me all deserve the same opportunities that I was given,” said NHFD Lt. Samod Rankins.

Fellow Lt. Ernest Jones says the applicants’ future should not hinge on luck of the draw.

“Oh, we have too many tied scores, let’s pull a lottery and let’s give it to chance without the ability to compete,” Jones said.

Instead they say all 99 applicants should move forward in the process and be weeded out along the way. It includes physical exams, background checks and an agility test, which they say many will not pass.

“Next all of them go to the physical agility. I don’t care about the price, I don’t care about the cost, I don’t care about how much time it takes,” said Rankins. “They all go down and they pass or fail on their own and they’re given the opportunity to proceed.” He went on to say this should have started in 2020 despite the pandemic.

Although Rankins says he’s not concerned about time, Cousin points out that the board only has until January to complete the hiring process before the 2019 exam scores expire.

He says tasking the police department with completing 99 background checks would take four to six months and be a financial burden the fire department isn’t prepared to pay. And staffing the agility exam for 99 people would also be time consuming.

So, he believes the best way to move forward is through a lottery and selecting 25 or more people to continue. The Board of Fire Commissioners is currently seeking advice from the city attorneys.  

“We want to make sure that everybody has an equal opportunity, has a good chance to advance but the seats are very limited,” said Cousin.

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