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The FDNY, firefighters and their unions have sounded alarms about the results of a promotional exam they say were twice botched by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.
DCAS released the hiring list from the promotional exam to firefighter lieutenant on Sept. 24 and firefighters immediately complained to both DCAS and the FDNY about how the agency calculated test-takers' seniority and merit awards into their final scores.
After the promotion list from the December 2022 exam was posted, the department requested that DCAS check the results. DCAS then “performed an additional review of scores and discovered that the published list was in fact, inaccurate,” according to an Oct. 12 FDNY order.
“DCAS discovered that the wrong weighting formula was used for seniority and awards, resulting in inaccuracy. They have recalculated the list with the correct formula for weighting,” such that seniority and award points and test scores contribute equally to final exam scores, according to the order from department officials.
DCAS took down its list soon after putting it up and posted the updated list Oct. 15.
But firefighters responded by filing even more complaints with the FDNY, DCAS and their unions, calling attention to what they said were remaining errors and confusion with the curve and grading system DCAS used to generate the second list.
“They changed the whole way that they weighed the test,” firefighter Patrick Finegan, one of the 1,677 names on the updated list generated by DCAS told The Chief this week.
‘We just want transparency”
Finegan said DCAS officials have not thoroughly addressed concerns raised about the second list and have failed to explain to firefighters how it generated those results. Both the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association have rebuked DCAS for bungling the two promotional lists and for lacking transparency.
In a message to its members in early November, the UFOA said that it had made “several inquiries” about the grading of the second exam but added that the union has been “unable to get definitive details about the grading system used.” The union said that it appears DCAS curved the Oct. 15 to reduce the value of an incorrect answer below one. This would mean that a firefighter who got 30 or more incorrect answers on the 100-question test would be able to achieve a passing score of 70 due solely to the curve.
“This is a significant concern to the UFOA and its members,” the union’s message said. “We believe that promotion exams with standard grading procedures are imperative in maintaining the merit-based promotion.”
The lowest score on the updated list is a 73.0, three above the passing cutoff, and Finegan says that his position was vastly different on the two lists that DCAS posted.
“It’s all over the place and we don’t know why they scored it the way they did,” Finegan, who’s also the Manhattan trustee for the UFA, said. “We just want transparency.”
DCAS, in a statement, did not address the concerns raised by Finegan and the UFOA regarding the Oct. 15 list. The agency admitted, however, that the initial list mistakenly made test-takers' scores count for 85 percent of their grade with seniority and merit awards only counting for 15 percent, a far cry from the 50-50 split that is DCAS’ usual means of scoring.
“DCAS ensures that all exam administration is a fair and transparent process for all candidates,” Anessa Hodgson, a DCAS spokesperson, said in a statement. “After initially publishing the eligible list for Exam No. 0569, we recognized an error in the scoring calculations. To quickly address this issue, we removed the incorrect scores and recalculated the exams based on the scoring guidelines outlined in our Notice of Examination.”
FDNY still reviewing the list
Andy Ansbro, the UFA’s president, blasted the hiring agency.
“The inability of DCAS to be transparent about the grading of the recent FDNY Lieutenant Promotional Exam raises serious concerns that bring into question the validity of the list, and the fairness of the process,” the union president said in a statement. “For the Firefighter that has devoted countless hours studying to make themselves a better firefighter and eventually a better officer, they deserve to know that their preparation and commitment alone will be the basis of their position on the promotional list."
The FDNY, in a follow-up order Oct. 26, said that it had been working on a quality assurance review that had already identified one error that DCAS corrected. The department said that members should continue to share inaccuracies with the department and that more updates would be shared in future orders.
“The FDNY identified one error in the exam that DCAS has corrected, and is awaiting additional answers regarding the exam scoring,” an FDNY spokesperson said in a statement. “We share the concerns and frustrations of our members who studied hard for this exam. We will continue to update members as soon as more information becomes available via Department Order.”
Finegan said that firefighters across the department are still hoping for some communication from DCAS that will better explain the new list. “DCAS has basically ghosted everyone,” he said. “There’s no information at all about this and firefighters are definitely frustrated.”
Firefighters who earn promotion from the DCAS list will be in line for a sizable raise, better health-care benefits and improved retirement contributions. But Finegan said that the benefits to the promotion extend beyond those perks.
“It's the privilege of being a leader of men and of other firefighters,” he said. “It's a prestigious way to advance your career.”
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Monday, December 4, 2023 Report this