A Superior Court judge has ruled that a promotion procedure in the New Haven Fire Department is illegal and has ordered an independent monitor to oversee future promotions.

Judge Lynda B. Munro ruled recently that a process known as “under filling” violated the city Charter.

For at least a decade, under filling allowed city officials to promote Fire Department employees even when a rank was filled. The posts were financed by money that was to be earmarked for vacant slots in other ranks.

Munro ruled that the process “creates a sense of manipulation of the civil service regulations to the benefits of a certain few selected by the fire chief and Board of Fire Commissioners.”

City officials had defended the practice as a way to ensure proper supervision in the ranks.

Six minority firefighters sued the city in April 1998. They sought monetary damages, but Munro rejected the demand.

“A lot of the shenanigans that have gone in the past will no longer occur,” said Martyn W. Philpot, who represented the firefighters.

Martin Echter, a lawyer for the city, said New Haven officials have not decided whether to appeal the ruling. Municipal officials have no immediate plans to under fill any positions, he said.

–Associated Press