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Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr said in a statement that the Fire Department is pleased U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel approved the city’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“This ruling allows us to move forward with our 2013 hiring process, and also with our future recruiting and hiring program,” she said. “We’re anxious to get underway, and will continue working to get the best qualified candidates on the street to serve the citizens of Austin.”

Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, said the union was disappointed but not surprised by judge’s decision.

Yeakel had earlier denied the association’s request to intervene in the settlement, a judgment the union has appealed. The motion is pending in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We’ll continue to actively work on our appeal,” Nicks said. “We believe that we’ve not been able to have a full opportunity to have all the facts or give all the facts in a proper setting, and we still hope to do that in the future. We look forward to our time in court.”

Earlier: A federal judge has approved a proposed settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Austin over discrimination allegations that stemmed from how firefighters were hired here.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel signed an order Friday allowing the two parties to implement the settlement, called a consent decree.

The approval comes about a week and a half after a hearing in which the city and Justice Department explained why Yeakel should sign off on the decree, while a lawyer for the Austin Firefighters Association argued that the proposal was unnecessary and overly broad.

Officials from the city, Fire Department and union did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr said last week that the consent decree will let the Fire Department hire up to 90 candidates who participated in last year’s hiring process. The city had suspended hiring as the Justice Department investigated whether the process to do so in 2012 and 2013 discriminated against African-American and Hispanic candidates.

The Justice Department later announced it had found evidence the processes effectively and illegally deprived those candidates of employment opportunities.

Federal officials did not allege that the city intentionally discriminated against minority candidates.

The Austin City Council in May approved the consent decree, which will award up to $780,000 to unsuccessful African-American and Hispanic firefighter candidates and would carve out 30 positions in future fire cadet academies for minority applicants.

Source: The Austin American Statesman