- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

The D.C. auditor has ruled that a former paramedic was passed over for promotion illegally but will not say whether the incident is a case of reverse discrimination.

Brandon W. Graham, who worked for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), says officials created arbitrary requirements for a supervisory position to promote a black woman less qualified for the job.

Mr. Graham is white and served nine years as a paramedic in the District before resigning in December 2003.

“It became very clear to me that personnel issues within the agency were being made based on factors other than merit,” Mr. Graham said yesterday. “It was also clear to me that I had no meaningful future in the fire department.”

D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols gave the report to Chief Adrian H. Thompson, who requested the investigation.

Investigators concluded that Mr. Graham should have been promoted and that the process used to deny him a supervisory job was “improper.” But it does not wade into the issue of whether the promotional process was racially biased, stating that the auditor’s office does not investigate racial discrimination claims.

According to the auditor’s report, EMS officials attempted in March 2003 to create a permanent job for LaShon Frazier, who was appointed in an acting supervisory capacity by former Chief Ronnie Few to evaluate paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

The report states Miss Frazier later complained that she was being less of an acting supervisor than she would have been had the job been permanent.

Miss Frazier and Deputy Chief John T. Spruill then worked on a job description and announcement for the job she was performing. Chief Spruill and Miss Frazier are black.

The announcement was posted by the city’s Office of Personnel last year from March 13 to 19. Five persons, including Mr. Graham, applied.

The report was issued Tuesday and states Chief Spruill called officials at the personnel office after the job announcement was posted and added a new requirement that candidates must have at least four years’ experience as a supervisory paramedic.

Chief Spruill said the amendment was inserted after consulting with Dr. Fernando Daniels III, then the department’s medical director.

The new requirement disqualified Mr. Graham.

Miss Frazier, who has 18 years on the job, was awarded the promotion in May 2003.

“The auditor found that the vacancy announcement and process used by certain current and former Fire/EMS personnel to select candidates was designed to ensure [Miss Frazier’s] placement,” the report states.

It also says officials in the Office of Personnel failed to disregard the amended announcement requiring four years’ experience.

One recommendation in the report is that employees who benefited from the practices that resulted in Miss Frazier’s promotion should be “held accountable to the fullest extent permitted.”

Fire officials would not comment yesterday on what corrective action they would take.

“There are several recommendations and we are taking them very seriously,” said Kathryn Friedman, a fire department spokeswoman. “Beyond that, this is a personnel matter, so we can’t discuss it.”

Mr. Graham filed a lawsuit last year, saying the incident was racially motivated. As part of his case, Mr. Graham submitted a sworn affidavit from Kenneth Lyons, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3721, which represents the city’s paramedics.

Mr. Lyons testified that in 2001 he attended a meeting at which Dr. Daniels made racially charged remarks when Mr. Lyons suggested several paramedics, some white, be considered for promotion.

Dr. Daniels was fired in August after patient records detailing questionable care by firefighter-medics were leaked to The Washington Times.

About two dozen — or more than one-third — of the fire department’s captains filed a lawsuit in March against the city, the fire department and Chief Thompson, citing reverse discrimination in promotional practices. The case is pending.

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