If you want to know why people have lost confidence in City Hall, here’s one of the reasons: Outrageous misconduct by city employees and officials that cost taxpayers millions of dollars with little or no accountability for those responsible.
Take the case of Fire Captain Frank Lima and the $4.8 million he was paid Aug. 12 in a reverse discrimination case. Lima had the audacity to treat a female recruit the same as a male one and flunked her when she couldn’t navigate a training exercise involving a 35-foot ladder. His reward: Reassignment and denial of a promotion. A jury awarded him $3.75 million 30 months ago but interest and attorney fees added to the final tally.
Or take the case of LAPD Officer Donald Bender who was stripped of rank and pulled out of the canine unit at LAX because he had the temerity to try to stop the unit’s only female officer, Patricia Fuller, from lewd jokes and innuendoes and exclusion from training sessions. He was paid $1.5 million this fiscal year with $1 million more due next year. She got $1.25 million last year and $1 million this year.
Firefighter Lewis “Steve” Bressler, in a similar case, got $3.3 million – twice what the jury awarded him because of interest and attorney fees. He suffered retaliation because tried to help a colleague suffering racial, sexual and sexual orientation discrimination.
There are a lot of other cases listed in City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s report on liability costs that is being reviewed by the Council today, cases like $130,000 to Mary Cummins-Cobb for wrongful termination and $175,000 to Joseph Ward-Wallace for discrimination in the Fire Department, where workplace abuse has been common for decades.
Abuse of citizens has long been equally common in the Police Department where the estate of David Medina, who died after police used excessive force on him, was paid $450,000 over the last two years and Angelo Gousse – beaten, kicked, tightly handcuffs, called racial epithets and falsely arrested – is being paid $3 million this year and next.
I could go on and on with cases like the nearly $500,000 deposited with the courts because of judgments for gadflies and Venice boardwalk entertainers Michael Hunt and Matt Dowd for violations of their rights, the Council’s illegal “density bonus” ordinance and other violations of the law.
What’s missing from the report is what disciplinary actions and managerial reforms were carried out over these abuses that have led to $26.1 million in payouts in the first three months of the fiscal year alone.
All the Council cares about these days is money so they’ve got there eyes on the $16 million still left in the budget for liability lawsuits. So for a change they are on Trutanich’s side, hoping he continues to play hard ball in negotiating settlements and winning cases in court.
The Council also is getting around to taking a look at the City Treasurer’s six-week-old report that showed revenue from investments was coming up $20 million short — not that another $20 million or so here and there is going to make much of a dent when you’re running as deep in the red as the city is.
It’s going to take a massive amount of pressure from the community to scare the political life out of the Mayor and Council and give them the courage to actually face the fact that have failed miserably in their jobs, have their priorities all screwed up, pay too much for everything as if the people’s money was just so much play dough.