10 white males, no blacks, on list to fill vacancies

By Barnett Wright
Birmingham Times Staff

Jefferson County officials plan to address concerns over its hiring practices after a report that 10 white males and no blacks are on a list to fill vacancies in the sewer department.

The county is already under a federal consent decree because of past discriminatory hiring practices.

The county has a list ­— or register — of applicants for 10 job vacancies as Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) operator II and all of the applicants are white males, according to a report delivered to a judge overseeing the county’s consent decree case.

“Over the next couple of years I think we’ll be able to be more diverse in that,” said Jefferson County Manager Tony Petelos.

Lorren Oliver, who is federal receiver in charge of the county’s HR department, “identified a lack of diversity” in the sewer department, he said.

“Review of the demographic information associated with this eligible register reveals that all currently eligible candidates are white males,” wrote Oliver in a report to U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith.

“Obviously, proceeding with hiring from a current certification list from this register would only serve to exacerbate the existing lack of diversity in the WWTP Operator II job,” Oliver wrote.

Petelos said steps are being taken to make sure blacks get an opportunity to fill the vacancies.

“We are going to contract the work out temporarily for the next year or two until we can get a more diversified group,” Petelos said. “The judge is very concerned and he wants us to do the right thing – and we’re going to do the right thing.”

The county is under federal court supervision after admitting to not living up to a 1982 consent decree requiring it to clean up its hiring practices so it doesn’t discriminate against women and blacks.