City of LA to pay $3M to firefighters who complained of shoddy building inspections

Plaintiffs said they faced harassment as retaliation for speaking out

Los Angeles /
Apr.April 06, 2022 11:00 AM
Los Angeles (iStock, Illustration by Shea Monahan for the Real Deal)
Los Angeles (iStock, Illustration by Shea Monahan for the Real Deal)

The City of Los Angeles will pay $3 million to a group of firefighters who said they were punished after blowing the whistle on shoddy building inspections.

The City Council on Tuesday agreed to the settlement in response to a lawsuit brought by the group of firefighters who alleged they faced retaliation after reporting misconduct in the Fire Prevention Bureau.

About half a dozen firefighters said in a 2017 lawsuit that untrained fire inspectors took part in rushed or incomplete building inspections as part of a Los Angeles Fire Department “Operation Catch-Up.”

The program followed a 2015 Times report on a backlog of overdue inspections.

The firefighters’ complaints were also depicted in a 2016 Times story in which they accused Fire Prevention Bureau officials of cutting corners by using poorly trained firefighters who were coaxed by supervisors to relax safety rules and overlook violations during inspections.

The result, the inspectors said, was that apartments, hospitals, studios, high rises and other buildings across Los Angeles had been improperly declared safe.

The firefighters said they faced harassment and discrimination from the city for speaking out about the shoddy work.

One said the fire department made a list of all attendees of a union meeting after a firefighter complained about the inspection process, the complaint states. Another firefighter said his position was cut after he reported unlawful billing practices in the unit that inspects high-rises. He was moved to a fire station and had his pay cut by $50,000.

A department investigation into the claims found “insufficient evidence to sustain any charges” that the department had cut corners during the inspection process.

The settlement is the second in a lawsuit involving the Fire Prevention Bureau in recent years.

Former Fire Marshal John Vidovich, who is mentioned in the lawsuit as running “Operation Catch-Up” and is accused by the firefighters of threatening them, sued the city in 2017. The city paid him $800,000 to settle his complaint, in which he alleged he was pushed out of his job by the LAFD union after exposing “illegal and fraudulent acts” by inspectors.

Vidovich testified he found fire inspectors falsifying and destroying records and demanding unnecessary overtime. An investigation sustained one of his allegations but not another.

[Los Angeles Times]Dana Bartholomew





    Related Articles

    arrow_forward_ios
    From left: Mayoral candidates Rick Caruso, Karen Bass and Kevin de León (Getty Images, iStock)
    Feuer exits mayoral race, backs Bass
    Feuer exits mayoral race, backs Bass
    Link Logistics' Luke Petherbridge with 5200 Sheila Street (Link Logistics, iStock)
    Aerospace outfit leases 115K sf warehouse in Commerce
    Aerospace outfit leases 115K sf warehouse in Commerce
    Candidate Rick Caruso, Councilman Joe Buscaino and Los Angeles City Hall (Rick Caruso, Joe Buscaino, iStock, Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal)
    City Councilman exits race, endorses Caruso for LA mayor
    City Councilman exits race, endorses Caruso for LA mayor
    Mayor Eric Garcetti (Wikipedia, iStock)
    City of LA approves settlement to spend $3B to house the homeless
    City of LA approves settlement to spend $3B to house the homeless
    Legacy Partners' W. Dean Henry with The Verandas (Legacy Partners, The Verandas Apartments)
    Legacy Partners unloads 209-unit apartment complex in West Covina for $92M
    Legacy Partners unloads 209-unit apartment complex in West Covina for $92M
    Mansion, Taxes, Rich, Ballots
    Push for ballot measure to tax resi sales over $5M moves forward
    Push for ballot measure to tax resi sales over $5M moves forward
    CIM Group's Shaul Kuba (Getty, START Los Angeles)
    Shaul Kuba of CIM Group remaking West Adams
    Shaul Kuba of CIM Group remaking West Adams
    12833 Ventura Blvd (Midwood Investment, iStock)
    Newly opened Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge fully leased
    Newly opened Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge fully leased
    arrow_forward_ios

    The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

    Loading...