Auburn firefighter sues city for alleged racial discrimination - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Auburn firefighter sues city for alleged racial discrimination

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AUBURN, AL (WTVM) -

Christopher Turner, an African American firefighter in Auburn, has sued the city claiming he was not promoted to lieutenant because of his race.

Turner's attorney, Julian McPhillips, explains, "We're hoping to get him promoted to a fire lieutenant position which is what he has actually occupied with an acting basis for a good part of the last two years, but they won't even promote him, and they keep paying him as a firefighter, too."

Turner filed federal suits against the city in 1991 and 2005, claiming discrimination. He has also filed complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In the lawsuit, Turner requests to be promoted to lieutenant and paid $500,000 in punitive damages.

"They are bringing in these young, white guys that don't know much, maybe what they've learned in a few books, but they don't know the terrain like (Tuner) knows it," says McPhillips.

In an interview in November, City Councilman Arthur Dowdell told News Leader Nine that he stands behind Turner's case, and is ready to testify in court on his behalf. 

McPhillps has attended multiple City Council meetings asking for members to comply with their demands before filing a lawsuit.

However, the City stands by their hiring practices, and responded to the allegations by saying neither the city or the fire division are racially biased.

David Dorton, City of Auburn Director of Public Affairs, says, "The City of Auburn definitely stands by its hiring and promotion practices throughout that are based on the most qualified candidate and not on other issues, certainly not on race."

The city uses an assessment center, a common practice for fire departments throughout the United States, to hire and promote new positions. The process is designed to emphasize fairness.

"I can say those practices will prevail when challenged," says Dorton.

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