The Salt Lake City Civil Service Commission will hear evidence next month on discrimination charges leveled by firefighters at a departmental hiring and promotion review board, officials said Friday.
The complaints arise out of personality conflicts and an "old-boy network" that denies qualified applicants firefighting jobs and qualified department personnel promotions they deserve, a union official said.Acting Salt Lake City Fire Department Chief Frank Florence said although the department is reviewing the complaints, the charges lack supporting evidence.
Fire department applicants must take a written and practical exam as well as undergo an interview with the Board of Chiefs, made up of department battalion chiefs. Veteran firefighters must also face the Board of Chiefs before being granted promotions.
The complaint, brought to the commission last month, arises from the fact that firefighters who do well on exams and have good work records with the department are denied jobs and promotions, said Ron Fife of the International Firefighters Association local 1645.
"The guys feel they did well; they've kept their noses clean, they've always worked hard. But when it comes down to the (job) ratings, there's a lot of politics and personalities that come into it," Fife said.
In one instance, an applicant achieved the second highest score among applicants taking an entrance exam but when he appeared before the Board of Chiefs he was ranked behind 90 other applicants, Fife said.
Fife called the practice inconsistent and complained that board members were basing their decisions on personality conflicts with applicants' relatives once in the department.
Florence said the complaints were born out of comments made by a frustrated board member and directed at applicants' relatives. But the matter was immediately corrected.
"We're certainly willing to look into anything, but with the information I see at this point I have a hard time believing they're legitimate," he said.
Both parties will present evidence to the Civil Service Commission, which reviews city hiring procedures.