A Glendale Fire Department captain is suing the city, alleging he was demoted and suffered other retaliation when he objected to the chief’s alleged order to use state-funded fire engines intended to be used in fighting brush fires for routine calls.
Brian Murphy’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was filed Wednesday and seeks unspecified damages.
A representative for the city could not be immediately reached for comment.
Murphy says he joined the GFD in October 1997 as a firefighter and worked his way up to captain in 2013. In March 2019, he was promoted to battalion chief on a one-year probationary term in anticipation of being appointed permanently to the position, according to his court papers.
Murphy was responsible for the Verdugo Communication Center’s area C, which includes Burbank, Glendale, Monrovia, Pasadena, Arcadia, Sierra Madre, San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Alhambra, Montebello and the Hollywood Burbank Airport, the suit states.
The staff at the center receive 911 calls — which include typical emergencies as well as brush fires — and direct them to the appropriate stations in area C. Depending on the time of the year, weather conditions can lead to rapid increases in wildfires and trigger a red flag warning, the suit states.
To help local agencies in fire season, the state funds local and municipal fire engines to be used exclusively in fighting wildfires, the suit states. The state funding pays for the per-day cost of the fire engines as well as the administrative personnel costs, according to the plaintiff.
Last October, Murphy says he sent an email to area C fire departments to determine whether any of them wanted to provide a fire engine to take part in the state funding, but without explanation Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas told Murphy to refrain from contacting the other agencies about the program, the suit allges.
Murphy did apply and received approval from the state for funding for a GFD fire engine, and the city of Monrovia also reserved a fire engine for the program, the suit states.
However, later that same month Lanzas told Murphy to make the two fire engines available for routine calls, a use that did not comply with the intended use of the equipment under the state limitations for funding, the suit alleges.
Murphy believed the order violated state and local rules and laws and reported his concerns to Lanzas, according to his court papers. Lanzas, who was appointed chief in February 2019, immediately reprimanded Murphy, stating, “You work for me. This is the most pissed off I have been since I have been here. Do you really think the state is going to come after us for using their rig if we are short?,” the suit alleges.
Two months later, Lanzas demoted Murphy down to a fire captain, according to the plaintiff. In February, Murphy reported the alleged retaliation to the Glendale city manager. He alleges the city conducted a “sham investigation to sweep Chief Lanza’s illegal activity under the rug” and Murphy’s demotion was not overturned.
In May and July, the city in further retaliation removed Murphy from two special projects, even though he was an essential part of both when he was a probationary battalion chief, the suit alleges.
Murphe claims the city’s alleged retaliation continues to the present and his career is “now permanently and irreparably damaged.”
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