By Aaron E. Looney
Special to The Advocate
September 14, 2012
DONALDSONVILLE — Mayor Leroy Sullivan said Thursday he has signed an agreement to end the city’s involvement in a consent decree issued 32 years ago to prevent discriminatory hiring for civil service jobs.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a joint stipulation of dismissal agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, removing the city from a list of Louisiana municipalities affected by the decree.
The decree stems from a lawsuit filed against the city of Alexandria and numerous other Louisiana municipalities in 1977. Although Donaldsonville was not included in the lawsuit, it was covered by the consent decree.
According to 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals documents pertaining to the case, the defendants were alleged to “have traditionally pursued and continued to pursue policies and practices which discriminate against blacks and females and which deprive or tend to deprive them of employment opportunities or adversely affect their status as employees because of race or sex.”
The city of Alexandria argued in its defense that it used state civil service policy as a method of screening employees, which does not allow prejudice, city Fire Chief Chuck Montero said.
The consent decree, enacted in 1980, laid out a plan to serve as a guide for all municipal entities working under Louisiana civil service policy. The purpose of the plan was to prevent any future unlawful discrimination, the chief said.
A U.S. Department of Justice attorney interviewed Montero and his employees late last year concerning the possible removal of Donaldsonville from the decree, Sullivan said.
“They were interested in seeing if they could release some municipalities,” Montero said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “After the interviews, they decided that we did qualify to be released.
“Every six months, we have to fill out a report stating the number of people we hire or fire and the number of people that pass or fail tests we give,” Montero said. “We have to categorize them according to sex and race.”
Montero also said he has been required to provide the U.S. Justice Department with contact information for any minority or protected class individuals who were released for any reason.
City Attorney Chuck Long said that changes in the city administration’s racial makeup since the lawsuit was filed likely influenced the decision to release the city from the decree.
“A continued pattern of discrimination against minorities would be highly unlikely with the current composition of the administration,” Long said.
The city’s mayor and three of its five council members are black.
While now cut loose from the decree, the Fire Department must continue to use civil service standards in its hiring and promotion processes, Montero said.
“Every action the Fire Department takes with an employee is reviewed by the state Civil Service Board, so that is the oversight,” he said.
Civil service employees feeling that they are being unjustly treated can still bring their concerns to the fire chief, city administration, the City Council, the Louisiana Civil Service Commission and the U.S. Justice Department, Montero said.