Vickie Christensen, a woman who has served as a wildland firefighter and worked in forestry for over 30 years, has been chosen as the interim chief of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of more than 35,000 employees. Her appointment comes in the wake of a number of reports of harassment and discrimination within the agency. She was selected after former Chief Tony Tooke abruptly retired following revelations of an investigation into alleged relationships with subordinates.
Source: Great Falls Tribune, March 9, 2018
Four Virginia Beach firefighters who were denied promotions last year are suing the city, claiming that results of an annual captain’s exam were tainted when a battalion chief gave confidential test information to two firefighters. The lawsuit is not asking for monetary compensation, but asks that results of the promotion process be thrown out and the procedure be redone.
As a result of a departmental investigation, it was revealed that a battalion chief, who also served as an assessor during the exam, had provided inside information about the exam to at least one candidate. That investigation resulted in the demotion of both the battalion chief and the newly promoted captain. However, it was later discovered that a second candidate had also received the information and been promoted as a result. He continues to hold the rank of captain on the department.
This is not the only recent high-profile case of an ethics breach when it comes to fire department testing. A common theme in these cases is that some candidates have an edge in the process due to who they know. They have access to information about the testing process and in some cases, actual questions or scenarios that will be used.
Some organizations take the attitude that information only adds to good preparation, and they are quite open about what a test will look like. Candidates can then study exactly what the test will include, and everyone can have equal access to that information.
In the Virginia Beach case, the test included a tactical scenario that candidates had to talk through. It was widely known that these scenarios always included a "curve ball." This was the key information given to the two candidates, who scored 95 and 100 on that part of the test. The lawsuit claims that the 100% score was a first for the department.
Testing processes should be designed to identify the best candidates for a particular job, giving all competitors a level playing field. If information is provided to some, it must be provided to all. When that is not the case, the result is the current situation in Virginia Beach, where the union president said, "The ramifications from this will last for years. It still affects morale to this day, and it’s still the number one topic of conversation at all the firehouses."
Source: The Virginian-Pilot, March 26, 2018
© Linda F. Willing, 2018