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City to vote on AFD hiring practices agreement

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The Austin City Council is set to vote next week on an agreement with the Department of Justice regarding the Austin Fire Department's hiring practices.

This comes on the heels of the Department of Justice's ruling that the city was discriminating. The firefighter union calls the move premature and harmful and members want a delay.

The Department of Justice found the hiring process for AFD was discriminatory in 2012 and 2013. According to the Department of Justice this was not intentional. AFD has been in a hiring freeze because of this since last summer.

Ever since the Department of Justice released its findings, it has been in negotiations with the city. This is what both parties have worked out thus far:

  • Under a proposed consent decree, AFD would be able to resume its hiring process with some modification.
  • African-American and Hispanic cadet candidates affected by the 2012 hiring process will be eligible for back pay and priority hiring. The pay would be capped at 780,000.
  • The length of the decent decree would last between 4 and 8 years.
  • Any future changes to the cadet hiring process during the term of the consent decree must be approved by the Department of Justice.

Council will meet in executive session to approved this decree. It will then be presented to a federal judge for approval.

The president of the Austin Firefighter Association says he's only begun to look over previously suppressed information involving the discrimination issue.

Bob Nicks says he feels the city is to blame for the 2012 hiring process in which he says the human resource department cut the test short by 30 minutes.

He says, while not perfect, the 2013 test produced the most diverse class AFD has ever had with 13 women, 13 African-Americans and 26 Hispanics in the top 100.

He wants to be involved in the council's decision to make sure the best firefighters are selected.

"If they anchor to a position next Thursday before the deal is actually cut and then we have information that shows there's a better way of doing it, it's difficult to un-anchor themselves form a position they voted on the week before it would be much better to put it off and work together. That's what we're suggesting," Nicks said.

"It's a public safety issue to me primarily I think we need to achieve some type of resolution on this so that we can move forward and begin to man our fire trucks and our fire stations as we need to do," Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said.

The department is 60 firefighters short, but Nicks says that is not a "crisis" situation. He says many shifts are running with extra people on units. He just wants the city to wait one month. There is a selected class currently ready for hire. As soon as this is settled, they will have jobs.

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