NAACP questions promotion practices
By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 23, 2008 1:35 PM
When James Hinnant goes to Dillard Middle School to work with children as a part of a mentoring program, he often offers this advice, he says -- get out of Goldsboro and Wayne County.
"It is no different now than it was in 1966 -- it was segregated then, and it's segregated now," said Hinnant, a retired agent of the Federal Protective Service, which provides security and law enforcement for federally-owned buildings. "Goldsboro has been unkind (to black people)."
Hinnant was one of about 15 people who attended a news conference held Monday evening by the local branch of the NAACP in downtown Goldsboro. The event was aimed at bringing attention to what organizers said have been questionable promotion practices within the Golds-boro Fire Department.
Sylvia Barnes, the president of the Goldsboro NAACP chapter, said the organization has been investigating issues within the department since early summer, when several firefighters approached her with concerns.
"We have received complaints from the firemen, complaints centered around the unfair promotion practices ... an intimidating workplace environment and the city's due process procedures," Mrs. Barnes said.
Mrs. Barnes keeps two large three-ring binders with documents related to fire department issues in her office, at a church on North William Street.
Mrs. Barnes said the specific complaint was that the promotion of several black firefighters had been put on hold after complaints were filed by white applicants who were turned down.
Three promotions had been considered. Five people had applied. The NAACP president said that initially promotions were given to two firefighters who are black, and one who is white.
According to Mrs. Barnes, the firefighters who were turned down for promotions went to City Manager Joe Huffman, and Huffman put the promotions on hold.
"Two other men that were not chosen, who were whites, went to Huffman," Mrs. Barnes said.
Mrs. Barnes said an NAACP review team was called in to look at the situation.
Huffman, reached by telephone after the news conference, said that because the promotions are a personnel issue, he cannot comment on the matter specifically.
The city manager said that Mrs. Barnes had asked him for a meeting but canceled it prior to the news conference, and said he was surprised that the NAACP had chosen to hold a public demonstration.
"I found out about the press conference probably about 20 minutes, or 30 minutes before it happened, which kind of surprised me," Huffman said. "Since those are personnel matters, there are legal limits to what I can say."
Goldsboro Fire Chief Alvin Ward, who is black, deferred comment to Huffman, "because it's all in his hands."
Hinnant said that issues at the fire department in Goldsboro is indicative of a larger problem in the city.
"Where people live, where they worship, where they go to school -- it's segregated in the city of Goldsboro," Hinnant said.
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