Akron Facing Contempt for Promotional Paralysis Solution

The Akron Fire Department is facing possible contempt proceedings over its efforts to negotiate a new promotional process with Akron Firefighters, IAFF Local 330. The department has been prevented from promoting new officers by the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio as it wrestles with a discrimination/reverse discrimination suit brought by 31 firefighters in 2006.

That case, Howe v. City of Akron, resulted in a jury verdict in favor of 23 of the plaintiff-firefighters costing nearly $2 million in damages alone, resulting on ongoing appeals, a stay of promotions, and the assignment of a court appointed monitor to oversee promotions.

The Howe plaintiffs are claiming that the city’s negotiations with Local 330 over promotions violates the court’s order. The city claims negotiations were in response to a grievance filed by Local 330 over the way the city had been handling temporary promotions.

The situation in Akron is not unlike that faced by many other fire departments whose promotional processes are embroiled in allegations of discrimination and reverse discrimination. In fact the problem is not limited to just promotions as many departments are prohibited from hiring new firefighters while their selection processes face the paralysis that accompanies judicial scrutiny.

However, in Akron the problem seems particularly serious. In 2006 there were 119 officers including 13 chief officers. Reports are that only 68 officers remain and that by early 2015 the department will be down to just two chief officers. Here is our prior discussion of the Akron problem.

Here is a copy of the Howe plaintiffs’ request for the court to institute contempt proceedings. Contempt

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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