A law firm hired by the city to investigate an allegation that a Los Angeles deputy fire chief was intoxicated while overseeing the agency’s operation center during the Palisades Fire found that he was likely impaired at the LAFD headquarters in City Hall East, but it cleared him of any wrongdoing, according to documents obtained Tuesday.
According to an investigative summary provided by the Los Angeles Fire Department, the law firm’s investigation concluded that Chief Deputy Fred Mathis “was most likely under the influence of alcohol or intoxicated” on May 18 but that “there was no evidence that Mathis had alcohol in his P4 dorm.”
The law firm’s investigation, the summary of which was first obtained by the Los Angeles Times, also found that Mathis “was technically off duty while he was likely intoxicated as he had put himself out sick” that day. However, The Times reported in July that an entry was retroactively made in Mathis’ timekeeping record four days after the May 18 incident, showing he was on sick leave the day he was alleged to have been intoxicated and on duty at City Hall East.
Mathis told the paper in an email that he did nothing wrong. He conceded that he struggles with alcoholism, but denied ever being intoxicated on duty.
“Did I make mistakes dealing with my alcoholism?” Mathis wrote in an email to The Times. “Certainly, but I don’t apologize for having a disease that I continually fight everyday. I never reported to duty impaired and my work was never impacted by my addiction.”
Mathis retired days before the investigation ended in January, so he could not be subjected to any discipline. According to The Times, he received a payout of nearly $1.4 million, on top of his annual pension of about $225,000.
The LAFD could not confirm the payout to City News Service, saying that workers’ compensation claims are handled by the third-party administrator AIMES. The department did pay out $292,587.09 for unused sick time, holidays and vacations, according to the department.
Mathis’ last seven months with the fire department were spent on paid leave for “continuous trauma to an extremity,” although the nature of the trauma was not clear, The Times reported.
The findings of the investigation have outraged department insiders, The Times reported.
The heads of three organizations for Black, Latino and women firefighters told the paper the Mathis case is another example of how the department grants special treatment to senior officers, especially if they are men or white. Two members of the Fire Commission, the five-person civilian panel that oversees the department, also criticized the handling of the Mathis investigation, the paper reported.
The law firm’s investigation also cleared Mathis of allegations of misusing his LAFD credit card and confidential information about the investigation after going on leave.
“There is no evidence that Mathis used the Voyager Card to fuel his personal vehicles, or otherwise improperly used the Voyager card. Accordingly, it follows that this allegation is unfounded,” according to the investigative summary.