Akron Fire’s Promotional Paralysis Case Settled

A nine-year long dispute that has held up promotions in the Akron Fire Department is finally over with news that the city has agreed to pay 23 firefighters $1.04 million in back pay and interest.

The suit, Howe et al v. City of Akron, was filed in November, 2006 by 31 firefighters alleging that a 2004 promotional test was discriminatory against black candidates for lieutenant and white candidates for captain. In 2008 a jury rendered a verdict in favor of 23 of the plaintiff-firefighters for $1.8 million in damages alone. That verdict resulted in numerous appeals, a stay on promotions, and the assignment of a court appointed monitor to oversee promotions.

The endless bickering also led to promotional paralysis leaving the Akron Fire Department with just 68 of 120 officer’s positions filled. In fact earlier this year, the city was down to just two chief officers.

According to Cleveland.com, while the terms of the settlement are sealed the $1.04 million agreement settles the back pay and interest dispute. The case file confirms that the parties are in settlement discussions, but a settlement agreement is not on file. Incidentally, the district court case history has 803 entries… which is A LOT…. Still to be agreed upon are costs and attorneys fees. Give the work the attorneys put in over the past 9 years, they are likely to be substantial.

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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