Montclair, NJ – Two Black Montclair firefighters have filed a lawsuit against the township, two township officials, one former township official and a test preparation vendor, contending that they faced “egregious race discrimination” in the Montclair Fire Department
The suit, filed early Monday morning in Essex County Superior Court, states that the department’s promotion process was rigged to favor white firefighters and to disfavor Acting Battalion Chief and Capt. Steven Marshalleck, Lt. Makkari Sampson and other Black firefighters.
The suit outlines what it calls a four-part scheme that it says was put into motion by the defendants: Montclair Township, Township Manager Timothy Stafford, Fire Chief John Herrmann, former Human Resources Director Sharyn Matthews, Promotional Prep LLC and Michael Terpak.
The suit describes the four parts this way:
- “The Montclair defendants replaced the existing promotional process with one that diminished the value of seniority – a factor that favored Black firefighters.”
- “The Montclair defendants added a highly subjective job performance evaluation section to the promotion process, which permitted them, having exclusive control over the scoring of that section, to favor white firefighters over their Black counterparts.”
- “The Montclair defendants scored the disciplinary section of the examination in violation of their own rubric to disfavor plaintiffs, who were penalized for minor infractions while white firefighters who had engaged in far more serious and more recent misconduct were not penalized.”
- “The Montclair defendants conspired with defendant Promotional Prep and its owner, defendant Terpak, to provide test preparation services only to white firefighters preparing for promotional examinations, while also increasing the impact of the written test by raising the threshold required to move forward to subsequent sections of the exams.
As a result, the lawsuit states, Marshalleck, Sampson and other Black firefighters “are lower on the promotional list than they would have been absent discrimination and will be promoted, if at all, later than they should have been.”