In an article written by Ryan Hagen of the Sun newspaper on July 7th, he answered one of the questions I and others have regarding statements and comments made by many community members that the San Bernardino City Fire Department only hires brothers, cousins, people they know, or who have been referred by someone within the department.
To fully answer the question or see if the problem is as deep as some of us think, it would take a full review of the employment process beginning with bona fide job related qualifications, recruitment, how did they find about openings, who referred them, the employment interview, what type of written test is required, and if anyone had input with the candidates before the final selection was made.
I know from my experience as Recruitment Manager at Kaiser Permanente, County Civil Service Commissioner and Classified Personnel Commission with the San Bernardino School District you have to stay on your “P’s” and “Q’s” to prevent nepotism from corrupting the system.
The Sun article identified two brothers working at Fire Station #230 that is on the planned budget cuts from city. Ryan named firefighters Andrew Stebel, 37 and younger brother Hans Stebel, 32. I do not know how many brothers, cousins or special friends work in the department but think it needs to be investigated. It is bad that the city has to cut anyone but the money is not there to keep the station open and other departments from losing employees.
I know what it feels like to be laid off from my days working at Kaiser Steel during the good old days of big contracts and then nothing for several months, it is no fun especially when you have a family.
Ryan went on to point out that the top 40 firefighters in the city make $197,000 a year. The next 40 firefighters make $166,000 a year and the next 40 make $130,000 a year, which includes benefits.
I have already reported that only four firefighters on the department staff live in the city. And out of a staff of 120, two are Asian, six African American, nineteen Hispanic and one female. This is not a good representation of the city’s ethnic demographic by a long shot.
So when the people hear and read that brothers can be hired, and local citizens cannot, it leaves a bitter taste in their mouth.
Now while nothing can be done at this time the mayor, city council, and the civil service board should prepare for the future when the economy picks up and the city starts hiring again. The city staff must reflect the diversity of the city it serves and that includes the fire department.