NORTH HUDSON – North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue (NHRFR) has again been barred from hiring after a U.S. District Court Judge reversed a previous decision in a NAACP lawsuit, decision the company’s lawyer said will be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
NHRFR Chairperson and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said the company had been hoping to hire by the end of this year, so they could be prepared for summer overtime. He said these plans would now have to be reevaluated according to the new court decision, which once again mandates that the Regional must hire from a tri-county list. They can only hire from a Civil Service Commission list that includes Hudson, Bergen, and Essex County residents.
NHRFR covers the five North Hudson towns of North Bergen, Guttenberg, Union City, West New York, and Weehawken.
The NAACP sued the NHRFR in 2007 alleging that its requirement that its members live in the towns it serves unfairly discriminated against African-Americans.
Turner said it is unfair that residents and taxpayers of North Hudson would now not be able to compete for jobs. He also said a clearer policy on residency restrictions is needed. NHRFR Attorney Thomas R. Kobin said the judge’s decision was a double standard, since many communities from Bergen and Essex County, like Newark, Hillside, and East Orange, have their own residency requirements in place.
“We are very disappointed in the judge’s ruling and the fact that he changed his mind from the previous ruling, and we find it a little bewildering that we have to deal with the flip-flop,” said Turner.
The new decision resurrects a preliminary injunction against hiring imposed in February 2009. After NHRFR appealed his decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals, the case was remanded back to Debevoise.
He vacated the preliminary injunction and gave NHRFR the power to hire in April. However,
Kobin said that recently NHRFR had made a motion for summary judgment in the NHRFR’s favor, but Debevoise instead granted a partial summary judgment to the NAACP, reinstituting the hiring freeze.
Kolbin believed the Regional had a “sound basis” to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals within the next week or so. – Tricia Tirella