ST. LOUIS – Two female fire captains, praised by the city earlier this week for their service, are being denied promotions they earned.

On Tuesday, the St. Louis Fire Department held up Acting Captains Licole McKinney and Jessica Jackson as proud examples of women representing the city. But they’re captains in name only.

McKinney and Jackson are being denied the pay increase that comes with that title because of a decision by the St. Louis Department of Public Safety.

It’s a decision St. Louis aldermen opposed, unanimously, according to Alderman Joe Vaccaro (Ward 23).

“We 100% agreed,” he said.

Vaccaro, the head of the Public Safety Committee, said he was disgusted to see the city taking credit for diversity that he doesn’t think we are really upholding.

“I think it was somewhat disgraceful on the city’s part, because you’re putting a bunch of people out there saying, ‘Look how great we are,’” he said. “Two of them are African American women that have been on the promotion list and not been promoted, yet they’re acting captains doing the job, not getting paid for the job.”

About 17 firefighters are affected; and the number is growing. About a dozen of them stood behind Captain Robert “Dan” Eveland in an October Public Safety Zoom meeting in which they confronted the Public Safety Department.

“Out of 700-plus suppression members in the St. Louis Fire Department, there is incredibly only one female supervisor,” he said. “The city can triple this simply by approving these promotions.”

Eveland added that the held-up promotions also include four African Americans.

“My first statement is, this is just a damn shame,” Alderwoman Marlene Davis said at that meeting. “We have to remedy this.”

Former Public Safety Director Dan Isom held his ground in that meeting, claiming the need to streamline what he called a top-heavy fire department.

“We need to figure out ways to shift more resources to the EMS-paramedic side, which (are) the overwhelming and overwhelming calls we are receiving,” he said.

The battle is complicated by a federal lawsuit over firefighter testing and disputes over promotional exams from 2013. It resulted in a 2017 settlement agreement, which says, in part: “The city will not intentionally delay promotions from the current lists in anticipation of new lists being certified.”

FOX 2 reached out to the Department of Public Safety for their current response.

“We are unable to comment due to pending litigation,” Monte Chambers, a DPS spokesman, said.

Vaccaro maintains the holdup needs to stop

“Do the right thing, he said. “Promote people who are on that list, and we should be back paying them.”