Mayor Marion Barry announced yesterday the promotions of 28 top officials in the D.C. Fire Department, some of which were immediately criticized by a group of black firefighters.
Although the promotions increased the number of blacks in the department's top 42 positions from six to eight, leaders of the all-black Progressive Firefighters Association said the number of blacks in the highest positions in the department were actually decreased.
The group also charged that two black deputy chiefs, Theodore Coleman and Joseph Kitt, were passed over as Joseph R. Granados, a white battalion chief, was named to be an assistant chief, one of two positions immediately beneath Chief Norman Richardson in the 1,188-member department.
"We are very disturbed," said Ted Holmes, president of the black firefighters group. "We are concerned why Barry jumped over the black deputy chiefs to name a battalion chief as the assistant."
"That one promotion alone just undoes everything he has done," said Lt. Ray Alfred who is active in the group. "His [the mayor's] whole position of affirmative action is a sham."
In announcing the promotions, the mayor said competency, not race, was the determining factor. Alan Grip, the mayor's spokesman, said Barry believes that Granados, a 24-year veteran of the fire department, is the most qualified person to become an assistant chief.
In addition to naming Granados, the mayor named four white deputy chiefs -- Hubert H. Clarke Jr., Thomas A. O'Connell, Harry H. Shaffer, and Harry O. Burks. The four join the two remaining black deputy chiefs.
In announcing the appointments to deputy chief, the mayor noted there were no black battalion chiefs from whom to fill the four deputy chief vacancies.
Five blacks were among the top 28 officials promoted yesterday. All were named to be battalion chiefs.
In addition to the top 28 promotions, there were an additional 115 promotions to captain, lieutenant and sergeant, all announced to fill vacancies created by recent retirements. Twenty-seven lieutenants will be named later. Twenty-one percent of those promoted are blacks.
Blacks make up 31 percent of the fire department. Holmes said yesterday's promotions "are not enough. [The number of blacks named] doesn't come anywhere near our representation on the force."
The appointments come at a time when members of the police and fire departments have sharply criticized the Barry administration for its handling of promotions. Whites within both departments have charged that they are being passed over for promotions they deserve and that instead blacks are getting these jobs. Meanwhile, blacks say they are being forced to be defensive and apologetic for assuming new authority when for years they were bypassed for promotion.
"The mayor's hands are somewhat tied," said Holmes. "He says race has nothing to do with promotions. Clearly he promoted the number of whites he did to appease the white backlash."
William Hoyle, president of Local 36 of the International Association of Firefighters, the union that represents the District's firefighters, said he is pleased with the promotions. "We feel they went with the most qualified people," he said.
Hoyle said unlike the fire department's promotions eight months ago, when he claimed 18 white battalion chiefs were passed over in favor of blacks, the men promoted yesterday were next in line. "I think the mayor and the fire chief have put together a good team," he said.
Granados, 46, will assume the day-to-day operations of the fire prevention and firefighting activities in the department. Clarke, 51, will head the fire prevention division and will serve as the city's fire marshal.
O'Connell, 53, and Shaffer, 49, will work in the firefighting division, while Burke, 46, will head the fire apparatus division.