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Cleveland pays $325K to settle lawsuit

CLEVELAND — Cleveland has paid $325,000 to settle a 17-year-old union lawsuit over hiring practices that a judge said left the city open to allegations of corruption, favoritism and political back-scratching.

The money, paid earlier this month, will cover legal costs incurred by the Civil Service Employees Association, which contended in its 1994 suit against the city that officials hired temporary employees who were permitted to stay on without taking a required civil service qualifying test.

A lawyer for the union representing hundreds of municipal workers also had said some department heads acted incorrectly by making jobs noncompetitive.

As part of the settlement, the city agreed to administer the examination to new hires within a one-year period as called for by the city charter, The Plain Dealer reported Wednesday.

The union will remain vigilant in watching for any new violations, said its president, Patrick Madigan.

“They’ve said they’re going to comply,” he told the newspaper. “We’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt.”

In April 2009, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Peter Corrigan fined Cleveland $900,750 over city employees who had not been tested. The judge ruled that the city had failed to comply with court orders stemming from the lawsuit.

“Abuse of the hiring system has opened the city, this administration, and the two prior administrations, to allegations of cronyism, corruption and political payback,” Corrigan wrote.

Mayor Frank Jackson was in office at the time and was sworn in last year to his second term. Jackson has been aggressive about making sure city employees take the exam, said Barbara Langhenry, the city’s interim law director.

“The mayor has been committed to following his obligations under the civil service laws and will continue to do so,” she said.

Langhenry estimated that fewer than 50 workers have not yet taken their test. In 2008, Cleveland officials acknowledged that more than 900 employees who should have taken a civil service test never did.