JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The U.S. Justice Department's findings that the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department has a history of discrimination against blacks seeking promotions has created a firestorm of its own.
The federal government's three-year investigation into promotional practices by the Fire Department determined "the city has engaged in a pattern of practice of employment discrimination against African Americans on the basis of their race."
The Justice Department is expected to file suit against the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters next week demanding promotions and back pay for those affected.
The firefighters union was also a co-defendant in a pending discrimination lawsuit that was heard in court Thursday.
Union president Randy Wyse has been dealing with these allegations since he's had the job and still maintains the Fire Department does not discriminate.
"For 41 years we have been dealing with charges of discrimination in the Fire Department, and nothing has been resolved," Wyse told Channel 4's Jim Piggott. "America's great, isn't it? Everybody gets their day in court."
City Council member Reggie Brown is glad the Justice Department is addressing the problem.
"I believe we have an obligation here as the leadership of the city to adhere to the recommendations by the Department of Justice," Brown said.
While the outcome of the suit will be up to a judge, councilman Greg Anderson is concerned the solution could be costly for the city.
"We have a tough budget season coming up, so anything that is going to impact the budget is a concern to us right now," said Anderson, who is also concerned about allegations of discrimination.
Mayor Alvin Brown and other members of city administration would not say much about the letter and the potential lawsuit.
"I have not been briefed on it. I have no comment," Brown said Friday. "Obviously, these things happened before my time. Cindy Laquidara, who is general counsel, will be dealing that."
Laquidara told Channel 4 she does not believe the city discriminates, but said there are some problems in the Fire Department that need to be dealt with.
"Clearly, there is some communication issues at a minimum between people in the Fire Department," Laquidara said. "We are addressing that."
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