Beset by controversy, contention and potential litigation over who would conduct one-on-one interviews with potential firefighters, the Bellevue Civil Service Commission Tuesday voted to scrap the whole thing.
Firefighters will now be hired solely on the basis of an agility test and two computer-generated written tests.
No further tests will be conducted, although the 30 top candidates emerging from the agility test and written examinations will be interviewed by Fire Chief Perry Guido and City Administrator Dan Berlowitz, who have the final say on any hire.
The discussion over the one-on-one interview process bogged down after Russ Herting, president of the Bellevue Professional Firefighters Association, protested that Britteny Ferrin of Morrow & Associates could not provide unbiased leadership in the process.
He cited an encounter with Ferrin during which she protested a public records request he made seeking information about invoices she had submitted to the City of Papillion.
Ferrin has submitted a bid to the City of Bellevue to oversee the process by which an interview panel is assembled, although she would not be involved in the interviews, the grading of applicants, or any final hiring decisions.
But John Corrigan, attorney for the BPFA, said concerns about Ferrin’s ability to devise an unbiased hiring process were felt by the entire firefighters union.
Commissioners at first voted 3-1 to conduct an investigation into whether Herting’s concerns had any merit.
Faced with the potential of an escalating legal battle, however, and also the expense of hiring an outside investigator, they reversed themselves and voted 4-0 not to investigate the allegations.
Corrigan said scrapping the one-on-one interview process answered BPFA concerns because that was the only portion of the process that involved Ferrin.
The agility tests, and the written exams, will both be conducted by the Bellevue Fire Department.
The department is in the process of transitioning from primarily part-time firefighters to a full-time force.
The current hiring phase will elevate nine part-time firefighters to full-time status, and between 70 and 100 part-time firefighters are expected to compete for the positions.