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Lynwood : Hiring-Bias Probe Ordered

October 23, 1986

A consultant will be hired to investigate the Fire Department's hiring practices following allegations of racial discrimination.

The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to find three firms to select from for the investigation of the 36-member department.

The firm is expected to be selected at the council's Nov. 4 meeting.

A firefighter hiring freeze was ordered Oct. 7 until the city resolves the allegation. City staff was also asked to conduct an internal investigation.

Gregory E. Handy, a black firefighter with the Houston Fire Department, testified before the council that he believed he was discriminated against.

Handy said he passed the written examination and agility test, and that after taking a oral exam was informed by letter that he had failed to qualify for placement on a job waiting list. He said he was told that he fell just short of making the list of 25 qualifying applicants.

"I have 3 1/2 years of experience. Many people (applicants) I spoke with said they had no experience. With my qualifications, I want to know why wasn't I hired," Handy said.

There are no black firefighters in the department. There are three Latinos and one woman.

The majority of Lynwood's 50,000 residents are black and Latino, Mayor Robert Henning said, and the city should have some blacks.

"An all-white department. It is disgraceful," Henning said.

Henning and Councilwoman Evelyn Wells voted to hire Handy immediately. The effort, however, failed when Councilman John Byork and Councilman E. L. Morris abstained.

City Atty. Dave McEwen told Henning that the council did not have the legal authority to hire Handy.

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