BRIDGEPORT — The city has agreed to pay $45,000 to nonunion firefighters who paid union dues between June 2002 and last October.

Four firefighters and two retired firefighters heading minority groups contended in a class-action lawsuit last year the dues were deducted from firefighters' checks without an independent audit of the union's spending.

The audit is required by law to ensure that dues from nonunion workers are not funding activities unrelated to collective bargaining, said Justin Hakes of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which filed the suit and represented the firefighters.

The deductions violated the 1st and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the firefighters claimed.

Hakes called the deductions a "forced-dues rip-off scheme [forcing] nonunion firefighters to fund political union activities."

Mayor John M. Fabrizi said the funds in dispute are being held in escrow.

The dispute arose with the International Association of Fire Fighters, said Donald Day, a retired city fire captain and director of the Northeast Region of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters. Day, who is black, was among the plaintiffs.

He said he wanted to prevent the IAFF from loaning union dues collected by Local 834 to fight affirmative action.

"You're not going to take my money and use it to stop a black man from being a firefighter anywhere," he said.

Fifty black and Hispanic Bridgeport firefighters quit the local union in 2001 to protest what they said is racism in fire departments here and throughout the United States.