An analyst for the Los Angeles County library system is suing his employer, alleging his supervisor ignored pleas to provide security to staffers and patrons from belligerent homeless people and endangered a maintenance employee by sending him into the Woolsey Fire zone in 2018 without proper protection.
A representative for the county did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Christian Burns’ Los Angeles Superior Court whistleblower suit, which seeks unspecified damages.
Burns, the department’s disaster services analyst, is responsible for disaster and emergency preparedness for the entire library system and is tasked with ensuring its emergency plans comply with federal, state and local statutes and regulations, according to his court papers filed Tuesday. Burns also was regularly assigned to manage near-daily security incidents in the 87 branch libraries, the lawsuit says.
In November 2017 and continuing through September 2018, Burns repeatedly complained to his direct supervisor that the department was not taking adequate action to protect library staff and patrons from “public indecency, threats of violence and acts of violence by belligerent, homeless and/or mentally unstable individuals,” the suit says. He repeatedly told his boss that the library needed to provide security personnel in its branch libraries and to train the staff on when to contact the Sheriff’s Department for help, according to the complaint.
Burns believed his boss’ “willful blindness to the security incidents at the department’s branch libraries was placing library staff and patrons in unreasonable danger,” the suit alleges.
In April 2018, Burns’ supervisor became hostile to him, banned him from taking breaks and lunches and assigned him tasks that were outside of his normal work routine, according to his court papers.
In November 2018, the Woolsey Fire broke out near Simi Valley and quickly spread to Malibu. Burns found out that his boss sent a county maintenance worker, without the proper safety equipment, into the fire zone to unlock a room or closet in the Malibu branch library, the suit alleges. Burns alleges he called his boss and told him that sending the maintenance worker into the Woolsey Fire zone without the proper equipment placed him in unreasonable danger.
Later that month, the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency asked to use the Malibu Library as a resource center for the Woolsey Fire, and Burns’ boss wanted to approve the request immediately, the suit states. Burns alleges he told his supervisor and another manager that it would be unsafe to approve the request without first conducting air quality and contaminant testing in the library.
The other manager ultimately agreed with Burns and ordered that air quality and contaminant testing be completed before responding to OEM and FEMA, the suit states. But the next day, Burns alleges he found out that his boss took two employees into Malibu to assess the library, even though the air quality and contaminant testing had not yet been performed.
In another incident, Burns was told about a gas leak in the Culver City library and told his boss that the branch should be closed to protect the staff and public, the suit states. The boss disagreed and refused to close the Culver City library, so Burns went to a higher-ranking manager who agreed with him and ordered the library closed, the suit states.
Burns was offered and accepted a promotion in the OEM last spring, but after finding out about it, his boss made comments that led to the plaintiff not getting the job after all, the suit states. Two months later, Burns was demoted in his analyst position by being stripped of his supervisory duties, according to his court papers.
The county’s alleged actions against Burns have cost him to lose income, overtime, pension and other privileges and benefits, the suit states. He allges he also has suffered damage to his reputation, and his chances of getting promoted to important positions have been impaired.
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