UPDATE: City Controller candidate Cary Brazeman — who took the lead March 1 in exposing the “FIREGATE” scandal based on data from “Fix the City” activists Mike Eveloff and Jim O’Sullivan, issued a statement today condemning the Fire Department’s clampdown on public information. “The questions are many: What is the city covering up? For how many years did the city report false or misleading response-time data? Who knew the truth and when did they know it? Why didn’t the Fire Chief step out and shine the light on this? Where was the City Controller? The City Council’s Audits and Efficiency Committee? Most important, it is not acceptable for the city to provide emergency service at a level that fails to meet national standards 40% of the time. Will policymakers act to fix the problem? I can only hope so.”
EDITOR”S NOTE: in the face serious accusation of fudging its response to justify budget cuts and intensifying media investigations and political criticism, Los Angeles Fire Department officials changed their story at a meeting of its oversight commission Tuesday. Here is a link to the LA Times report on the commission meeting which carries the headline: “LA Chief offers new explanation of flaswed responsed times”. Late in the day, Chief Brian Cummings then announced that the on the advice of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s office, the department would no longer disclose information to the public on most of its emergency activities. Here is a link to the Chief Brian Cummings website announcement. click here. Here then is the City News Service story as sent out Tuesday evening:
Date: 03-20-2012 7:07 PM – Word Count: 412
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Citing a federal medical privacy law, the Los
Angeles Fire Department announced today it would no longer provide the public
with basic information about fires, medical calls, traffic accidents or other
emergencies it responds to.
LAFD public information officers contacted by City News Service today
about various fire calls — including a vehicle shearing a fire hydrant in
North Hills and a collision between a food truck and a car in downtown Los
Angeles that sent two people to hospitals — said they were not permitted to
provide any information, including the locations of the crashes. In the case of
the downtown collision, a spokesman refused to even confirm a wreck had
occurred, even though footage of the crash had already been shown on at least
one television news station.
The policy apparently took effect Sunday, when the LAFD began omitting
the addresses from media alerts it circulates about fires or other incidents to
which crews are dispatched. For example, a media alert issued Saturday by the
LAFD specified that fire crews had responded to a fire at 936 W. 49th St. By
Sunday, the department’s media alert about a reported fire in a three-story
apartment complex included no address or general location of the blaze.
LAFD Chief Brian L. Cummings issued a statement late today saying the
department — which has been under fire in recent weeks over its reporting of
response times — was following orders issued by the office of City Attorney
Carmen Trutanich, a candidate for county district attorney.
City Attorney’s Office officials could not be reached for immediate
Cummings said the department is subject to the Federal Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, “and is only
permitted to release Protected Health Information for the purposes of
treatment, billing and operations under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, without the
“The department is currently seeking written advice from the city
attorney relative to the release of incident-specific PHI to a variety of
internal and external sources including elected officials, commissions, the
media and associated stakeholders,” Cummings said. “The city attorney has
preliminarily opined that the department should immediately cease the practice
of releasing PHI to any source not specifically authorized under the Privacy
Rule’s treatment, billing and operations exemption.
“I realize that this practice will significantly impact the manner in
which the department provides updates and notifications to a wide variety of
stakeholders,” he said.CNS-03-20-2012 19:07