Former Ontario fire chief suing city, alleging discriminatory hiring practices

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Floyd Clark worked for more than 30 years in the Ontario City Fire Department before he said he was forced to retire. (KABC)

Floyd Clark worked for more than 30 years in the Ontario City Fire Department before he said he was forced to retire.

Now he's suing, alleging discrimination and harassment, saying the department is infected with a culture of dishonesty and racial degradation.

According to Clark, not one African-American firefighter has been hired since 1986.

"There is a systemic problem with respect to hiring practice, promotion practice and all those things within the city of Ontario," said Clark.

Bradley Mancuso is the attorney representing Clark. "It's pretty rare to see a work environment go 30 years without hiring an individual of color, I mean that's amazing to me, I've never heard of that," said Mancuso.

Clark said when he was promoted to fire chief in 2011, he tried to make the fire department more racially diverse.

It was a priority he claims wasn't shared by management. Clark recalled a conversation he had with the city manager.

"'When I retire there will be no African-Americans on the Ontario Fire Department. Doesn't that mean something?' And I can't recall the exact verbiage, but it was like, 'That's just not important right now, let's just move on,'" Clark said.

ABC7 filed a public records request with the city of Ontario. In its response, the city said they only retain equal opportunity employment records for three years.

But of the 196 people currently in the fire department, not one identified themselves as African-American.

By comparison, the city of Riverside's fire department has 234 personnel. Of those, 10 are African-Americans.

As for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, there are 31 African-Americans on its force of more than 1,000.

"That's been one of our biggest struggles, when you look at the community overall, versus the applicant pool, it doesn't match."

Deputy Chief Don Trapp said they reach out to high schools and colleges, but he said they still struggle with the number of African-Americans who even apply.

"Why don't more minorities apply? That's the million-dollar question, and I wish I had an answer for that," said Trapp.

As for the lawsuit in Ontario, the city gave ABC7 this statement: "The City cannot comment on ongoing litigation and/or personnel matters. With that said, the City of Ontario is committed to promoting and encouraging diversity, inclusiveness and equal opportunity. We are not going to try Mr. Clark's patently false claims in the media, and look forward to disproving them in court."

"I'm hoping justice will be served, and when I say that I mean the city of Ontario and its fire department will take a serious look at its hiring and promotion practices," said Clark.

The City of Ontario and Al Boling deny all the allegations and are asking the judge to throw the case out on legal grounds. They claim Clark's allegations from 1986 to May of 2015 are barred by the statute of limitations.

Boling is invoking immunity from liability for his discretionary acts performed within the scope of his authority as city manager.

Related Topics:
firefire departmentsdiscriminationjobsemploymentOntarioSan Bernardino County
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