Mayor Bloomberg Never Thought FDNY Exams Were 'Biased,' Say Court Papers

NY Daily News - September 19, 2009

by John Marzulli

Mayor Bloomberg says he believed Fire Department written exams were not biased against minorities because that's what FDNY brass and firefighters told him, court papers reveal.

Bloomberg was grilled for three hours by lawyers for black firefighters who are trying to determine how he responded to the lack of diversity in the largely white department.

The mayor said he knew the FDNY was mostly white "from my own observations" at graduation ceremonies or visits to headquarters and training facilities.

Bloomberg said he consulted with a wide range of FDNY rank and file and bosses "as to whether or not they thought the [entrance exam] was biased ... other than to get the best and the brightest."

"And every time I asked, the answer always was the test, according to them, was not biased," Bloomberg said, according to a transcript of the deposition filed in Brooklyn Federal Court Friday.

Richard Levy, the attorney for the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization of black firefighters, noted that the fire commissioner and chief of department were white.

"Appears to be," Bloomberg replied. "I have never asked his ethnicity."

The mayor said he did not recall concerns about the exams raised by the Vulcan Society, then-state Sen. David Paterson, Councilwoman Yvette Clarke or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Justice Department filed a civil suit against the city in 2007 alleging exams discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants. Recently, Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled the tests illegally excluded more than 1,000 minority candidates.

Bloomberg acknowledged at the deposition that he had not read the judge's 93-page decision despite his vow to continue fighting the suit.

City lawyers filed a motion this week seeking dismissal of the suit against Bloomberg himself because he contends he had no knowledge of biased exams.