Homeland Security reviewing $5.9M grant to JFRD

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Department of Homeland Security has informed the city of Jacksonville that a $5.9 million grant to hire 40 new firefighters is in jeopardy.

Channel 4 uncovered the letter to General Counsel Cindy Laquidara dated March 19 saying the grant is under review while federal agencies investigate hiring practices at Jacksonville Fire-Rescue.

The letter says that when the city received the grant, it didn't mention that the department has had a number of complains and allegations of discrimination at JFRD.  So Homeland Security says it will conduct a review of the fire department and the discrimination lawsuits that have been in federal court for years before releasing the funds.

Fire Chief Marty Senterfitt says he can't comment because of pending court cases, but did say that leaving out the information on the grant application was a mistake and it will be taken care of.  Senterfitt does not think the grant is in jeopardy.

Randy Wyse, head of the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, is not concerned.

"Obviously, when you get a large amount like that from FEMA and then they question part of the application, yeah it something to be concerned about," Wyse said. "But I don't think its going to impact anything in the future."

Laquidara is out of town and no one from the fire department will discuss the issue, leaving the firefighters union president the only one going on the record.

"They are going to do everything they can to make sure if there was some wrong done in the application, it's going to be fixed," Wyse said. "It's not anything they've done that was a secret or intentional."

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