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Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007 07:53 pm

Pointless

Firefighter sues city to get credit for military service

Untitled Document The city of Springfield faces another lawsuit, this one challenging its methodology for promoting firefighters. Springfield firefighter Mark Dyment, who is on the current promotional list for battalion chiefs, filed suit in Sangamon County Circuit Court in August seeking “judicial review” of the Springfield Civil Service Commission’s refusal to award him “veterans preference points.”
Both the city and its Civil Service Commission are named as defendants. Dyment, a 44-year-old captain who joined the Springfield Fire Department in 1989, currently ranks seventh on the list — high enough that he is likely to receive a promotion with or without veterans preference points. However, Dyment says he’s pushing for a ruling not just for himself but also for the ever-growing number of firefighters and law-enforcement personnel who will contend with this same issue in the near future. “They keep telling me I’m gonna make battalion chief whether I get this or not, but that’s not the point,” Dyment says. “There’s 70 guys behind me who are going to have the same deal.”
When Dyment began the testing process for promotion, he didn’t foresee any problem with his veterans points. Like the other candidates for the rank of battalion chief, he participated in an oral exam known as an “assessment center” in March and took a written test in May. The scores of these two exams were then run through a series of calculations involving means and medians and weighted to give the written test 65 percent of the total score and the assessment center 35 percent. Candidates’ scores were further tweaked to reflect seniority and — where applicable — veterans points.
Early in this months-long process, Dyment noticed that his written score had been miscalculated and that he was ranked higher than his rightful place. He immediately notified city officials of the error and insisted on having his name bumped down from fifth place to seventh. He had two reasons for making this correction: “Right’s right and wrong’s wrong,” he says bluntly, “plus I didn’t think it was any big deal because I knew when I got my veterans points I would move back up to number four.”
In 1983, Dyment joined the Air National Guard and was subsequently sent to Keesler Air Force Base, in Biloxi, Miss., for 14 months of training as an electronic warfare systems specialist, according to his military discharge form, called a DD-214. Yet when he submitted this document, city officials said he didn’t qualify for veterans points.
Frank Martinez, the assistant corporation counsel who handles employment issues, cited a federal code that defines “active duty” in such a way as to exclude National Guard (and Air National Guard) service. However, the same code Martinez cited defines “active service” to specifically include National Guard duty. Furthermore, in 2006 the city adopted a state code that broadens eligibility for veterans points to anyone who spent at least a year in “active military or naval service” and earned an honorable discharge.
Dyment then filed a protest with the Civil Service Commission, which heard his case during its regular August meeting. Greg Akers, the vice chair who presided over that meeting, declined to talk to a reporter,
saying Dyment’s case is a personnel matter. An e-mail sent to the city’s director of communications, Ernie Slottag, brought
the same response.
However, one member of the Civil Service Commission says such conflicts about veterans points have been a constant source of debate on the panel. Commissioner and attorney Kent Gray, who did not attend the August meeting, says he can’t speak to Dyment’s case in particular but questions the legal argument put forth by city officials. “I have a difference of opinion with the Davlin administration,” Gray says. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t err on the side of giving veterans preference points to people who have served this country.”

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.
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