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Home / Neighborhood / Los Angeles / Los Angeles Times seeks LAFD member misconduct records

Los Angeles Times seeks LAFD member misconduct records

by City News Service
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The Los Angeles Times has taken legal action against the city of Los Angeles to obtain records of alleged sexual harassment and other misconduct by Los Angeles Fire Department members that the newspaper maintains is being wrongfully withheld.

The Times’ Los Angeles Superior Court petition cites the California Public Records Act in asking a judge to order the release of all nonexempt documents requested. A representative for the City Attorney’s Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the petition brought Monday.

The newspaper has published numerous stories about alleged misconduct at the LAFD, some of it serious and involving sexual harassment, but the department did not discipline those involved or allow them to resign in lieu of discipline, the petition states.

“Under a body of law that goes back almost 45 years, public agencies, including the city, must disclose government records reflecting well-founded allegations of misconduct against public employees,” the petition states.

The LAFD’s alleged denial of the employee misconduct records violates the CPRA and improperly prevents the Times and the public from understanding how the LAFD investigates complaints against employees and imposes discipline, according to the petition.

The newspaper cites the case of Fred Mathis, the retired LAFD chief deputy of administrative operations, who allegedly showed up drunk to work May 18, 2021, while heading the LAFD operations center that day as firefighters contended with a Pacific Palisades fire that threatened lives and property.

The LAFD admits Mathis was impaired that day, but maintains the city does not have to release any investigation or disciplinary records about his misconduct because, four days after the incident, the city let him retroactively place himself on sick leave, the petition states.

“The city suggests the LAFD could not discipline Mathis because he was technically off duty … although no one would have known he was off duty when he showed up for duty inebriated,” the Times’ court papers state.

The city maintains that Mathis has a privacy right in being intoxicated when showing up for work, arguing that it relates to his medical background involving substance struggles, the newspaper’s court papers further state.

“The city argues that this privacy interest trumps the public interest … even though the public has a profound interest in learning how and why the city did not discipline Mathis and let him retire four days after the conclusion of its investigation with a $1.4 million payout and $225,000 in annual pension payments,” the Times’ court papers state.

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