Suit Seeks to Block New Haven Fire’s Planned Lottery

A New Haven fire lieutenant along with thirty firefighter-candidates have filed suit to block the city’s plans to use a lottery to break a tie between 99 applicants who scored 100 on a civil service hiring test.

With Lieutenant Samod Rankins serving as the lead plaintiff, the suit was filed today in New Haven Superior Court. It alleges that the city’s plan to use the lottery violates the City Charter and civil service rules.

The current hiring list was established on January 22, 2020 with an expiration date of January 22, 2022. Ninety-nine (99) applicants scored 100 on the exam, leaving city officials in a quandary about how to select thirty for an upcoming academy. The city’s plan was to use a system similar to the Connecticut State Lottery, using 99 numbered balls that would be randomly selected.

The suit does not challenge the legality of using the lottery process, but rather alleges that the city failed to follow the proper process in authorizing the use of the lottery.

  • The implementation of the aforementioned “lottery system” by the defendant City is in contravention of its Charter which mandates the process that must be followed when a Civil Service Rule is amended.
  • Article XIII, Section 1A of said Charter provides as follows: “Procedure for changing rules; rules to be public records whenever said Board shall have adopted any rules under any of the different provisions of this section said rules shall not be changed expect after Public Hearing Notice or, at least three (3) separate occasions, giving at least two (2) weeks’ notice of such proposed change. All rules of said Board shall be public records.”
  • Moreover, in this instance, Rule VII, “Appointments” has also been violated as it provides that appointments can only take place from certified lists “as provided in the Charter.”
  • In implementing the said “lottery system,” the defendant City, acting by and through its Civil Service Board violated the Charter, as well as, Civil Service Rules without complying with the aforementioned Charter Section which sets forth the process that must be followed when a Civil Service Rule is amended.
  • Moreover, in the absence of compliance with the Charter as well as the Civil Service Rules, any appointments made off said re-constituted Eligibility List, through the aforementioned lottery system, by the defendant City, acting by and through its Board of Fire Commissioners, are void.

The suit asks to court to invalidate the city’s actions and order it to comply with its Charter and civil service rules. Here is a copy of the complaint.

BTW, this is not Lt. Rankins’ first go-round with the city. Here is a suit he filed last year over promotions. He is listed as the Corresponding Secretary of the Firebirds Society of Greater New Haven.

The New Haven Register quoted Firebirds President Ernest Jones and International Association of Black Professional Firefighters Executive Vice President Gary Tinney as being supportive of the suit.

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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