Fire chief investigates cheating claims

Questions raised over Jacksonville Fire-Rescue Department testing

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter, Elizabeth Berry

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After years of complaints and a half a dozen law suits, promotional testing in Jacksonville's Fire Department once again is in the spotlight. This time, the allegation is over cheating.

"Seems like the last few years, there have been a lot of allegations against all sorts of different people," said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Fire Fighters Association.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department is answering questions about a test that may not happen because of allegations that some people have knowledge of the test, before it's been formally created.

Fire Chief Marty Senterfitt told Channel 4 Friday night that he's launched an investigation into the matter.

"I believe it's a lieutenant suppression test. We have very stringent testing on the Fire Department," said Senterfitt.

Senterfitt told Channel 4 that there are some allegations that somehow, information about the test got out into the open, when it's supposed to remain confidential.

"As we do all the time in situations like this, we take these allegations very seriously," said Senterfitt. "We are working with human resources, now in the process of conducting a full investigation to insure that hasn't happened."

"So city did the right thing: stopped it, we're going to redo it, start from the beginning so there was no impact to anyone," said Wyse.

Wyse told Channel 4 he heard about the leaked information and acknowledges this is the latest in a long list of complaints about testing for promotion in the department.

"City is the one that makes the test. City promotes people, the union doesn't so if there's a better way, we're open for it," said Wyse.

"The biggest challenge we have is the testing vehicle isn't adequate and has a discriminatory impact on blacks," said attorney Dennis Thompson.

Thompson represents firefighters who are suing over the tests. According to Thompson, the tests are racially biased because they are multiple choice.

"Oh no, we want to change process. We want to change process and bring the city of Jacksonville into the 21st century. The testing vehicle they use is wholly inadequate. It's little better than random selection," said Thompson.

"There's not a statistical significance in the way system is now that causes an impact to a specific group of people, so I wholly disagree with Mr. Thompson. (I) look forward for more conversation in the future with him," said Wyse.

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