BRIDGEPORT — A proposal barring felons convicted within the past 15 years from becoming city firefighters will get a public hearing Tuesday before the Civil Service Commission.

City Personnel Director Ralph Jacobs said the proposal, which he wrote, is preliminary and he is trying to gauge public opinion. The commission will meet at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall.

However, the three felons now on the firefighter hiring list would remain if the commission approves the proposal, Jacobs said.

A felony is a major offense, not necessarily violent, that carries a penalty of a year or more in prison. The proposal also covers convictions for serious misdemeanors.

Jacobs called the proposal "a good point for discussion."

"Civil Service is not a rehabilitation agency, but we still are part of the community," he said.

He added there is value in hiring reformed felons. If felons have not violated the law after 15 years, they are unlikely to do so again, he said.

Controversy over the felon policy erupted when the commission placed Earl King Jr. on the hiring list last year.

King, who served time in a federal prison camp for bagging crack cocaine for the Adrian and Russell Peeler drug gang, is the highest ranked felon on the firefighter list, tied for 16th with 10 other candidates.

He has since held two city jobs, one working with children.

The next-highest felon on the list is James Bulerin Jr., tied with eight other candidates for 64th place.

Bulerin was convicted of first- and third-degree larceny in 1996 and given a one-year suspended prison sentence and two years probation. He has had no further legal trouble, according to Jacobs.

The new proposal to bar felons sprang from the commission's decision to place felons on the hiring list. The city wants to hire at least 16 new firefighters to reduce the department's overtime costs.

Jacobs said he had searched for a formal commission vote adopting the old policy, but could not find one.

"The commission wanted a standard that would stand up," Jacobs said of the new proposal.

The state's policy calls for reviewing candidates with felonies on a case-by-case basis.

Meanwhile, the city has sent out 20 hiring letters to the top 20 candidates, who must now take a medical exam since the list is two years old.

In the case of a tie, such as King's, 11 candidates were ranked based on a random drawing.

The list expires two years after the date of the first hire.

Aaron Leo, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6222.