Judge Says Hirings Violated NAACP Agreement

CLEVELAND (AP) - A federal judge ordered the predominantly white suburb of Parma to abide by its hiring policy agreement with the NAACP and resolve a dispute over five firefighter hirings.

Parma and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Aug. 2 signed an agreement designed to end a 12-year legal battle and commit Parma to recruit and hire black applicants.

But the NAACP objected to the city choosing hiring safety workers from a civil-service list predating the agreement. The NAACP said new hires would be legal only if they were made from new civil-service lists.

U.S. District Judge Kate O'Malley on Thursday continued her order blocking the hiring of five firefighter cadets and warned she would supervise negotiations if the impasse continues. O'Malley said she had no doubt the hiring policy agreement was violated.

Parma and the NAACP are to meet Wednesday. Parma Law Director Tim Dobeck said he will offer a settlement and ask city officials to approve it.

NAACP lawyer James Hardiman praised the judge's latest ruling.

"While it is a step in the right direction, it does not ensure that minorities will be hired in the Parma safety forces," he said.

A related issue is whether a high-scoring black candidate for a police job in Parma was bypassed due to his race, Hardiman said. The city safety director said the candidate was disqualified in the screening process.

City lawyer Joe Morford said any breach was inadvertent, and Parma intends to redouble efforts to abide by the agreement.

Parma is Cleveland's largest suburb with 85,000 residents, and 95 percent are white.

The NAACP sued the suburb in 1990, saying Parma discriminated against blacks in hiring. The 550-person city payroll includes two blacks: a police officer and a clerical worker. The fire department has 98 employees, but no blacks or women.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)