THE GUSS REPORT--Is Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti willing to play dirty pool in order to get significant union money and votes for his re-election as well as for his anticipated future campaigns for either Governor or Senator? (Photo above left: Mayor Garcetti)
Does anyone doubt that the Los Angeles Times – formerly known as the newspaper of record for Southern California – is willing to aid and abet him in that mission?
It certainly seems so in reading the Times’ August 24th article by Paul Pringle and Ben Welsh entitled “LAFD Fire Marshal Steps Down after Criticism that He Cut Corners on Safety.”
Taken at face value the Times made it seem that that man, John Vidovich, a 35-year Los Angeles City Fire Department Deputy Chief assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau is an incompetent who put firefighters at-risk until the vast majority of them banded together to demand his ouster.
But you know that the story could never be that simple. Life dictates that it isn’t.
The Pringle and Welsh story cries out with questions:
- What did you find out when you investigated whether the Firefighters’ Union was upset because the waste, fraud and abuse exposed by Vidovich embarrassed some of its members, and efficiencies he recommended cut down on overtime that, while saving taxpayers’ money, cost the firefighters overtime that in some cases could be as much as $100,000 per year each?
You did investigate that, didn’t you?
- You wrote that the Times’ investigation found about 6,800 buildings were months or even years overdue for an inspection. Where in your article did you state that, when Vidovich first took over the position, that figure was much higher…10,000 buildings with overdue inspections, and that his efforts in just two years cut that original figure down by 32%?
It’s kind of relevant, yes?
- You wrote “the union that represents inspectors and other firefighters earlier this year voted to approve a resolution of ‘no confidence’ in Vidovich.” Exactly how many people (of the 3,100 firefighters in the department) took part in that vote, and exactly how many of them voted “no confidence?”
Let’s just say that the room in which the vote allegedly took place is rather small.
- How did the union’s donation of $350,000 to Mayor Garcetti’s re-election campaign, and to those of Councilmembers up-for-re-election, impact the decision to move Vidovich? The donation announcement was posted verrrry shortly after the decision to move him was announced.
- Did you investigate whether any Councilmembers came to Vidovich’s defense only to be threatened by the union with the loss of their share of those campaign donations funds if he or she did not shut their mouth?
Call me if you want to discuss specifics on this.
- You wrote “through a department spokesman, Vidovich and (Fire Chief) Terrazas declined interview requests.”What effort did you make to contact them directly to determine if that is true?
- If City Hall was willing to paint Vidovich as an incompetent, did you determine whether he received any awards for his work – like innovation awards – to determine whether or not he was being railroaded?
- Did you receive a copy of the letter written to Chief Terrazas supporting Vidovich, signed by six of his fellow LAFD Captains? Isn’t this relevant to your story, or does balance, fairness and accuracy in journalism not come into play anymore?
- What exactly transpired when the LAFD recently sat down with the major studios because they felt they were being over-assigned uniformed inspectors on sets that do not have any pyrotechnics when a walk-thru inspection would be sufficient?
- And how exactly did the union rank and file respond when it was no longer allowed to work on its Paid Days Off, a Vidovich recommendation approved by Terrazas, so that they could bank those days and get time-and-a-half from the taxpayers?
And then there are the documents which expose the sheer fraud … like the one in which an inspector allegedly billed for hours for inspecting a building that was torn down years prior? Wouldn’t it be a good time to look closer at this story and see whether what you were fed by Garcetti and his minions is truthful?
It would appear the full Fire Marshall Vidovich story has yet to be told. Consider this an invitation to stay tuned.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a writer and a CityWatch, Huffington Post and KFI-AM640 contributor. He blogs on humane issues at ericgarcetti.blogspot.com/ and can be reached at @TheGussReport. Opinions he expresses are not necessarily those of CityWatch.)