"Garcetti’s Wimpy Approach to LAFD Corruption and Bribery" by Daniel Guss
@THE GUSS REPORT-Alive and well is the perception that LA Mayor Eric Garcetti employs the same approach toward advancing his political aspirations that J. Wellington Wimpy did in the old Popeye cartoons: “I will gladly quash corruption allegations and throw whistleblowers under the bus if you make a massive donation to my next campaign.”
For example, for nearly a year now, Garcetti, his chief-of-staff Ana Guerrero and LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas sat on reports documenting the culture of corruption among some LAFD fire inspectors alluded to in my CityWatch articles on September 5 and October 3, 2016.
Case in Point: The implausible overtime claims of Inspector Glenn Martinez.
On the morning of December 23, 2015, department officials noticed that an odd proportion of the Q4 2015 overtime approved by Terrazas to help reduce the backlog of overdue inspections was claimed by Martinez. While his peers averaged roughly 40 hours that quarter, Martinez claimed 200 hours or about 40% of the total OT allotment.
When LAFD officials dug in to audit Martinez’s work plan for that day and saw that he already put in for a day’s worth of inspections, plus overtime, for time that had not yet occurred, they set out to locate him at the addresses where he claimed to be.
At Our Lady Help of Christians School, Martinez put in for 6½ hours of inspection time, without having been seen by any of the onsite personnel, including those he would have needed to access the places on the property he claimed to inspect. Just eight days earlier, another inspector went through the property….in just two hours. It was a school building that had been closed for more than two years, which only required a walk-thru. How Martinez spent 6½ hours there is a riddle that solves itself.
LAFD personnel looked for Martinez on and all around the Our Lady property at the time he said that he was there, but was seen by no one. Martinez’s time log claimed he was at the school from 11am to 5:30pm, after which he claimed to have spent four overtime hours at Occidental College, starting at – wait for it – 5:30pm, despite the campus being more than 6½ miles away.
(Martinez must have missed the chapter in the bunco playbook about taking into consideration LA drive time between one’s alleged victims du jour.)
Records reflect that at Occidental, Martinez claimed to have spent four hours inspecting two buildings. That’s his modus operandi: take two hours to inspect a building regardless of its size and condition. The problem here is that the campus had, by that date, already been shut down for the winter break for 10 days. As was the case with the previous property, nobody (neither Occidental staffers nor LAFD personnel) saw Martinez or gave him access to where he needed and claimed to go.
This is what prompted LAFD officials to dig deeper into Martinez’s other claimed allocations for those 200 hours of quarterly overtime, including similarly implausible inspection claims at USC, where he put in for extensive OT during much of the weekend of the USC/UCLA football game. That also happened to be the Thanksgiving holiday when the places Martinez said he inspected were inaccessible on his own, and whose safety personnel – who always attentively accompany LAFD inspectors – did not encounter Martinez.
That brings us back to Garcetti.
To date, the only thing he appears to have done in response to these, and other fraud allegations leveled against some of Martinez’s colleagues, is re-assign Deputy Chief John Vidovich who was dutifully doing his job exposing it. Garcetti’s removal of Vidovich from that role coincided with the donation of $350,000 to his re-election campaign, and those of his City Council successors, by the firefighters’ union which had become agitated by the reduced overtime of its members as a result of Vidovich’s work.
At some point, Garcetti goes from being the enabler of the corruption to being an inextricable part of it.
It is time for LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey to set aside the perception that, for her, some in City Hall are fish too big to fry, or cross, and whether Garcetti and the Councilmembers took what may amount to bribery and conspiracy. If she is unable or unwilling to do that, the Feds should jump in.
And while Lacey decides where she stands on enforcing the law, the LA Times owes Vidovich a public apology for its August 24, 2016 article in which it served as nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Garcetti machine, a mistake it has yet to correct.
Daniel Guss has written about general interest and current
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