CLEVELAND, OH — Cleveland officials are investigating possible cheating on a fire department promotional exam given during the summer.
City spokesman Dan Williams confirmed the investigation Monday but declined to offer any additional details.
No firefighters have been disciplined, said Tim Corcoran, the president of the Cleveland Firefighters IAFF 93 union that represents the city’s firefighters.
City officials recently informed Corcoran of the investigation but did not disclose any other information, he said.
Officials have not said how the possible cheating may have occurred.
“Unfortunately there’s a few ways the test could be compromised,” Corcoran said Monday. “There’s no foolproof method.”
Corcoran said 149 firefighters took the test — 63 vying for a promotion to captain and 86 seeking a promotion to lieutenant. The test is comprised of a written exam worth 40 percent of the score and an oral exam worth 60 percent.
The written exam took place in June and the oral exam took place over the course of several days in late July, Corcoran said.
During the oral exam, the test administrator gives a firefighter a scenario involving a fire or an issue with a subordinate. The firefighters then explains how he or she would respond to the scenario, Corcoran said.
The test was administered by State College, Pennsylvania-based EB Jacobs. A message left at the company’s office was not returned.
The test results were supposed to be available by mid-November. Firefighters began asking questions when the results were not released, Corcoran said.
The city has 20 open lieutenant positions to fill and six captain spots, Corcoran said. The investigation has caused a delay in filling those positions.
Officials want to make sure the test was handled properly before any promotions are given, Corcoran said. That would ensure the promotions are fair and avoid any costly litigation that could come from a compromised test, he said.
“We’re not concerned with the delay,” Corcoran said. “We just want to make sure the test is being handled properly. We of course want our people promoted but our biggest concern is making sure the test is legitimate and everyone has a fair opportunity. There needs to be a level of transparency in place for these things.”
For years, the city’s fire department has been plagued by cheating allegations related to its tests. In 2009, a firefighter was accused of stealing the “Paramedic Functioning Test” and distributing answers to his colleagues.
In 2002, a group of black firefighters filed a lawsuit that alleged racial bias in the promotional exam and hostile treatment in the workplace. Several white firefighters complained they were slandered in a series of depositions that included accusations of cheating on the promotional exam, according to The Plain Dealer.
The sides settled the lawsuit in 2006 when the city agreed to promote 15 black firefighters and pay a $650,000 settlement, according to The Plain Dealer.