Dixon urged to disclose firefighter exam inquiry

November 06, 2007|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

A group representing black firefighters and the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP called on the mayor yesterday to disclose the results of a months-long investigation into whether some firefighters cheated on city Fire Department promotional exams over the summer.

Henry Burris, president of the Vulcan Blazers, said the investigation, which started in July, has affected the careers and reputations of at least six black firefighters who scored at the top of exams for new captain and lieutenant positions. He blamed Mayor Sheila Dixon for delaying the results of the investigation until after today's general election.

"Investigators are out on a witch hunt," Burris said. "It is humiliating to those persons who've looked forward to their promotions."

In early July, the city's two fire unions expressed concerns that the exams for lieutenants and captains may have been leaked, prompting Dixon to order an independent investigation by the city's inspector general. The Vulcan Blazers dismissed the allegations as "racially motivated," which the unions have denied.

Burris said the top three scores for the captain's and lieutenant's tests were achieved by black firefighters. He said he had not spoken with Hilton Green, the city's inspector general, before yesterday's news conference about the investigation because he didn't think it would be appropriate.

Green said yesterday that his investigation is complete and a report has been written. He said the report is in the final stages of being reviewed and prepared for printing.

A spokesman for Dixon said the report will be released next week and denied that its disclosure was timed for after the election.

"Mayor Dixon takes allegations of cheating on the promotions exam very seriously and because of the racial overtones in the accusations, she wanted to make sure that all facts were checked, double-checked and triple-checked to ensure accuracy and fairness," said spokesman Anthony McCarthy.

Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the Fire Department must improve race relations among its members.

The NAACP chapter head said the city's Police Department faces similar challenges with race, such as a dearth of diversity in the agency's upper ranks, and he vowed to "expose it" in both agencies. Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III could face questions on the issue at his City Council confirmation hearing tomorrow.

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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