SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Representatives from the National Action Network are claiming Savannah Fire Chief Charles Middleton is discriminating against African Americans. They are accusing the fire chief of not hiring or promoting enough African Americans. Chief Middleton, who is African American himself, is being investigated by the City of Savannah according to Mayor Otis Johnson, who confirmed the accusations at last night's town hall meeting.
The organization says to just look at the numbers in 2010. According to the city, 500 African Americans applied to be fighters and 124 showed up to take the exam. 19 passed the exam, and only four passed the physical exam. Three of the four were asked to interview and two failed the background check, meaning they only hired one. In 2010, the city hired 28 white fire fighters. Currently the city has 234 white uniformed fire personnel, 54 of them are African American. WTOC spoke with a representative from the National Action Network, who says they filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the City of Savannah.
"We are asking for his resignation because he has had five years to do what the city council, the mayor and city manager has asked him to do and he has failed. Now, we want the public to be aware that this is what is going on, racism and discrimination. We want to make it known that something needs to be known," said Alicia Blakely, National Action Network. "For one african american to be hired of 13 hundred. The message that's being said is there are no intelligent African Americans able to pass the test and that's an insult to myself to every African American in this community."
WTOC tried to contact the City Public Information Office, as well as the fire department, which declined to comment on the situation. The mayor did confirm they are looking into the issue and there are two sides to every story. He does plan to meet with Chief Middleton to address the concerns. The city is in the process of meeting with Woodville Tompkins Technical and Career Institute to develop a course to help recruits pass the written test. The National Action Network does plan to take legal action.