Baltimore County's police and fire departments are being investigated for possible discriminatory hiring practices.
The county was notified of the investigation Jan. 30 in a two-page letter from the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division that was obtained by Patch.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz apparently acknowledged receiving the letter in a 10-page letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings, according to the Baltimore Sun, which first reported the probe.
In the letter, Kamenetz "acknowledged that women and minorities have been "underrepresented" in the fire department and in some sections of the police department," The Sun reported.
Don Mohler, a county spokesman and Kamenetz's chief of staff, declined to release the letter to Cummings referenced in the newspaper report.
"At the present time, the Department desires more information regarding the hiring of African-Americans in the protective services positions within the Baltimore County Police Department and Baltimore County Fire Department so that we may fully evaluate whether or not the County is in violation of" Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, reads a Jan. 30, 2012 letter signed by Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general.
"Title VII prohibits an employer from discriminating against an individual on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin," Perez's letter states.
The investigation of county government is the latest by the Department of Justice. Currently, the county is in negotiations with the department on violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act involving 13 county employees.
More than a dozen other complaints filed since last summer are reportedly under investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Last month, the county settled a lawsuit with a police department applicant who sued, claiming he was rejected because he had diabetes. The county settled that suit for $95,000.
In August, the county lost an appeal in federal court and was ordered to pay Detective William Blake $225,000 plus interest for the April 2010 jury decision. The county ultimately will be responsible for paying legal fees, which currently total nearly $600,000, to Kathleen Cahill, Blake's Towson-based lawyer. A petition is pending on the final award of the legal fees.
"It seems only the federal government will make this county obey the law," said Cahill.
"It is astounding to see a government behave like this in the year 2012. They apparently believe they are above the law," Cahill continued. "[The county's] blatant violations of the ADA have persisted for years, unabated. They have even broadened their scheme after the Department of Justice advised them that they were violating the law."