A half-dozen members of a Los Angeles Fire Department unit settled a lawsuit they filed against the city in which they alleged they were subjected to retaliation after speaking out against the alleged use of untrained and inexperienced inspectors.
Lawyers in the case told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis during a hearing on Aug. 10 that the case filed in February 2017 had settled. No terms were divulged.
All of the plaintiffs are current or former members of the LAFD’s Fire Prevention Bureau. Gary Carpenter, Andre Johnson and Glenn Martinez are retired, while David Riles, Aaron Walker and Patricia Ramirez are still with the LAFD. A seventh plaintiff, Jerome Boyd, died while on duty at age 55 in April 2017.
The suit alleges that then-Fire Marshal John Vidovich implemented an “Operation Catch-up” program in which he used untrained and inexperienced inspectors to perform duties after media reports that the LAFD had thousands of overdue inspections.
The inspectors used by Vidovich completed “unreliable, flimsy fire inspection reports” that were ratified by him and approved by FPB members when they should have been rejected, the suit alleged.
The plaintiffs reported that inspections conducted during “Operation Catch-Up” deprived the citizens whose property was being inspected of the services for which they were being charged, the suit stated. In retaliation, Vidovich threatened that all FPB members critical of “Operation Catch-Up” or who spoke to the media would be “dealt with,” the suit stated.
In Ramirez’s case, the department leaked false information to the media that she had engaged in fraud and theft, while Riles has been denied promotions and important assignments, according to the suit.
In their court papers, defense attorneys, denying liability on the city’s part, stated that the Los Angeles Fire Commission implemented and approved a “Operation Catch-Up” in June 2015 to “boost the number of fire inspectors and reorganize the bureau responsible for ensuring that … (large) apartment buildings, schools, churches, hotels and other structures meet city and state standards for sprinklers, alarms and other life-saving equipment.”
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