The president of the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Latino firefighters association called for a federal inquiry into an alleged cover up involving a senior administrative commander who was allegedly under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on duty.
Assistant Fire Chief and Los Bomberos President Patrick Butler sent a letter Wednesday to U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkinson asking her office to “investigate the Fire Chief (Ralph Terrazas) and all city leaders that were involved in the cover up regarding the on-duty alcohol and drug intoxication of a high-ranking member of the Fire Chief’s staff.”
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Terrazas received a complaint that Chief Deputy Fred Mathis was intoxicated while on duty at the department’s office at City Hall East as the department was battling the Palisades Fire in May. The department is required to promptly deal with employees who are suspected of being intoxicated, but records and interviews reviewed by The Los Angeles Times showed that the complaint about Mathis was not filed for three days.
The complaint indicated that Mathis admitted to drinking, according to The Times, and the city’s timekeeping system was retroactively logged to report that Mathis was out sick the day his intoxication was reported.
“We all want and demand accountability and transparency from our civic leaders and government services. The men and women of the LAFD deserve nothing less, nothing is more essential to our department,” Butler said in the letter. “Issues of race, inequality and other societal problems cannot be addressed until we have confidence in our leaders and the processes that protect us and the public we serve.”
The Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement to City News Service Thursday:
“The matter has been referred to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office for investigation. It’s the prerogative of any member organization to request a review by third-party agencies, to which the department is committed to providing its full cooperation.”
“The LAFD strives to create an equal, balanced and fair environment for all. At any time, a member may file a complaint and has several options and resources including the Professional Standards Division, any chief officer, the department’s EEO Coordinator, or the city’s Personnel Department. All complaints are taken seriously, internally investigated and referred to other appropriate agencies, as needed,” it continued.
The Times reported Monday that Butler, along with a representative of the Stentorians — a Black firefighters association — allege that Mathis was given special treatment, and non-white employees are not granted the same when they are accused of being intoxicated on duty.
According to The Times, Capt. Robert Hawkins, executive vice president of the Stentorians, said, “Chief Terrazas knew about this and broke policy. It’s a lack of accountability and lack of integrity. People get special privileges based on rank and skin color.”
Stentorians’ President Gerald Durant and Butler also asked the Los Angeles Fire Commission to investigate the department’s handling of the complaint against Mathis.