City preparing to settle hiring practices claim, sources say


by TONY PLOHETSKI / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist Derek Rasor

Bio | Email | Follow: @tplohetski

Posted on January 22, 2014 at 11:24 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 23 at 12:16 PM

AUSTIN -- City officials are nearing an end to negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice to settle claims that the Austin Fire Department discriminated against minorities while hiring new firefighters in recent years, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

Austin City Council members could vote as early as next week to enter into a "consent decree," which would likely prevent a lawsuit against the city by the Justice Department.

Although terms of a potential settlement have not been finalized, four sources told KVUE News and the Austin American-Statesman that the settlement could include payments to about 30 to 40 applicants in a 2012 hiring process who were not selected, or in lieu of those payments, a guaranteed slot in a future cadet class.

The city may also agree to hire a yet-to-be determined number of minority firefighters during the next several years, the sources said.

Austin city council members, including Mayor Lee Leffingwell, declined Wednesday to comment on the negotiations.

Bob Nicks, president of the Austin fire union, said he was not yet aware of specifics of a possible settlement.

"We've reached out to city attorneys; we've reached out to the DOJ...constantly trying to get more information so we can develop an intelligent position on this," Nicks said Wednesday. "We've been kept in the dark."

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