Four Virginia Beach firefighters are suing the city over what they call a tainted promotion process.
The suit filed in Virginia Beach Circuit Court is on behalf of David Scherrer, Richard Ivrving, Alexander Wazlak and Mark Bayly. The master firefighters were all looking to become captains.
The promotions process began in May 2017. All master firefighters wanting to become captain have to go through a rigorous test, which includes an exam and tactical evaluation. A list of most qualified candidates for promotion is compiled and the highest scores are promoted first.
Just after the process was through, information came to light that two candidates were given information on the tactical portion of the evaluation.
“It came out of nowhere and quite honestly we are all shocked by it,” said Bill Bailey, President of the Virginia Beach Professional Firefighter Association.
“At least two individuals were given confidential information by a battalion chief,” added Andrea Ruege, attorney for the four firefighters.
According to the lawsuit, former Battalion Chief William Reynolds gave the information to Nena Myers and Ronson Carr. Carr and Myers finished one-two, respectively, in the tactical portion of the evaluation.
“A perfect score in these types of exams to our knowledge don’t happen,” Ruege said. “This is the first time this has ever occurred within the department.”
After the fire department learned of Reynolds’ alleged actions he was demoted to master firefighter. He is no longer with the department.
Myers was demoted to firefighter.
According the the lawsuit, Carr originally told department administration he received confidential information, but he was not aware it was confidential or that Reynolds was an assessor of the tactical competent for the test.
Carr has since said he didn’t make those statements. He’s since been promoted to captain.
“There is no dispute that individuals were given the tactical problem or the captains’ promotional process,” Bailey added. “The city doesn’t dispute that. The union doesn’t dispute that.”
Bailey says the city learned of the cheating after five candidates on the list had been promoted. He believes the city should have done something then. Instead, eight others have been promoted from the list.
Scherrer, Irving, Wazlak and Bayly filed grievances with the city. The grievance board told them the list would not be thrown out. They believe it should be, because Reynolds was the one grading the candidates and that tainted the list.
“The individual who started this problem touched every candidate and that makes the whole process in my eyes tainted,” Bailey added.
“The city correctly applied its written grievance procedure and these employees had a full hearted before the Personnel Board, a group of citizens specifically appointed to hear employee grievances,” said City Attorney Mark Stiles. “It ruled the challenged promotion process not be set aside. The city believes the Personnel Board’s decision was consistent with law and city police and will defend the lawsuit.”
The firefighters are now taking the fight to the court hoping a judge will overrule that decision.
“You have to be able to stand that every individual promoted earned that promotion,” Bailey said. “They have to be respected by the members of the department and respected by the community.”