LIMA — The Lima chapter of the NAACP held an impromptu rally Sunday in Lima’s Town Square to complain about the firings, over several years, of six black public works department workers.
“The NAACP is here to announce we are going to file a class action lawsuit that deals with all of these people that have been wronged by city government and city leadership and fired falsely for no justifiable reasons. There are six African-Americans whose name I have on this list, who have been terminated in the last few years, one as recent as a week ago,” said Ronald Fails, NAACP chapter president.
Fails would not release the names of those fired or give specific reasons for their termination. Fails did mention one minority was hired for a city job after passing the civil service exam then told to lose weight if he wanted to keep his job. That employee, Fails said, took drugs to lose the weight.
“There was traces of the chemical in the diet pill found in their urine, then [he was] fired and the very next week, a son of one of the supervisors in the department was hired. It’s very clear what we have going on. It’s nepotism, it’s racism both on a personal level and an institutional level and it must be addressed,” said Fails.
Fails said they’ve met privately with union officials, and he said they have asked NAACP to bring this issue to the attention of the community.
“The election is over. I guess it was the intent of the mayor to hire a few more blacks while he was running for office, but the issue is not the issue of hiring them, it’s been an issue of retaining them,” Fails said.
Lima Mayor David Berger is proud of the progress made in hiring minorities for city jobs.
“We have significantly increased our hiring and retention of African-Americans over the last several years. We’ve actually doubled the number of minority employees, black employees, in the departments. Overall, we’ve gone from roughly 6.6 percent in 2006 to over 13 percent this year. In the Public Works Department, we’ve actually gotten to 22 percent, which is a really significant number, based upon our history. I want to mention we’ve been able to make that progress in recent years because the Civil Service Board and Lima City Council adopted a new rule, what we call the ‘Rule of 10,’ which gave us the opportunity to consider more applicants than previously had been able to be done. Since 2012, we’ve been able to double the number of minority employees overall,” said Mayor Berger.
As for Fails’ concerns about nepotism, Mayor Berger acknowledges it was permitted in the past, but not anymore.
“For many years, the tradition of family members going to work for the city was actually a long-standing circumstance in every department. It was in recent years that we adopted the policy against nepotism, and while we now allow people to take the civil service test and be considered, we now structure it in such a way that folks do not end up supervising [family members] if they are new employees, but at the time this employee took the test, and I’m assuming we know the persons are that they’re talking about, it took place 8 or 10 years ago that the person was hired in that department,” said Mayor Berger.
Fails wouldn’t say what court they plan to file the class action lawsuit in or when that lawsuit might be filed.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.