@THE GUSS REPORT-Between Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles Times and this column, only one of us has ever told the truth about John Vidovich, (photo above, right) the now-retired 36-year Deputy Chief, Fire Marshall of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
All three of us, in one form or another (with Garcetti represented by Managing Assistant City Attorney Eric Brown), wound up in Division 58 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown LA on Friday morning, a short walk along the homeless encampment next to Grand Park from Garcetti’s City Hall office.
The issue at-hand was this: will Garcetti be compelled by the court, at the request of Vidovich’s attorney Michael Turrill, to sit for a deposition related to his client’s whistleblower-related lawsuit. In the nearly two years since Vidovich’s case was filed, Garcetti has done everything he can to avoid it, most recently in a 117-page declaration.
And that’s from Garcetti, the guy whose every ninth word is seemingly “transparency.”
You see, it’s politically inconvenient for hyper-controlled Garcetti to be called out by a life-long first responder, whose final task in his lengthy firefighter career was addressing departmental problems that turned out to be extensive corruption in the form of thousands of backlogged inspections; inspections claimed to have been done, but never were; and the LAFD ripping off the city’s real estate developers by conducting construction site inspections intentionally done at hours that required unnecessary double- and triple-time billing. That problem, sources say, is worse now than ever with Vidovich retired.
Local and national firefighter unions didn’t like what Vidovich was doing because the more money its members make, the more money the unions make. They allegedly knowingly protected the bad guys in their ranks and are accused of contributing massive sums to Garcetti’s political campaigns in a quid pro quo to take Vidovich off that assignment until he retired. This column was first to point out this accusation in Vidovich’s case, and Hillel Aron at the LA Weekly followed-up with a deeper dive. (See photo above of Garcetti playing pool with Frank Lima, then-President of UFLAC.)
But back when The Times first wrote about the Vidovich case, it not only failed to include his side, it falsely claimed that it was unable to reach him. Vidovich says The Times never tried. And management at The Times has allegedly acknowledged that it got the story wrong but has failed to publicly correct the record and apologize. Or as this column has long said, they were protecting Garcetti, because that’s what the LA Times does. For the past year or so, The Times switched reporters to Dakota Smith (she, who fails to properly credit sources), who has poked around for access to Vidovich for the past few years, to no avail. So there she and I sat in the otherwise emptied courtroom on Friday while counsel briefly went into chambers to speak with the judge.
What Garcetti fears most is this: in a recent poll, he had 1% name recognition in the field of candidates rumored to be running for president in 2020. Above him with 2% was notorious porn lawyer Michael Avenatti. The last thing Garcetti needs now is a first responder forcing him into sworn testimony about corruption.
And here’s what the smart money says will happen, when the hearing is reconvened on Friday. If Garcetti is compelled to testify, it will never happen. Negotiations, or mediation, will accelerate and Garcetti will give in, and cough up a seven-figure settlement to Vidovich, while maintaining that neither he nor the City of Los Angeles did anything wrong. That prediction is not only based on the merits of the Vidovich case, but also how things played out for the LAFD’s Tennie Pierce as well as that of the lesser-known case of Stephen Meiche, who last week won a jury verdict of $2.75 million against the LAFD for harassment and retaliation related to his own whistleblowing efforts.
In the Meiche case, according to the LA Daily News, “Meiche began complaining in March 2014 that property purchased with federal funds, including diving dry suits, were being destroyed in violation of grant money rules and that records were ‘likely falsified’ to cover up the destruction. He also alleged that some department members were “abusing grant funds by falsifying hours worked on training.”
And ask yourself this, with Meiche’s $2.75 million verdict now a week old, how come there is not a single word about it when you search “Meiche” on the LA Times website? It’s inconvenient for Garcetti, and therefore it’s inconvenient for The Times.
If we can dig into Garcetti’s ankle-deep sincerity, he is facing the horrible fate of becoming the next Antonio Villaraigosa; a Mayor who did little to help LA, often hurting it, while seeking fame and advancement to whatever is next. His feigning tease about running for the Oval Office is about his actual search for relevancy. He wants to be in the game, but his best chance for that came and went when he sought the gig of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, though President Obama repeatedly bypassed him. And with the nagging issue of a Vidovich deposition hanging over his head, he will sooner fork over a pile of cash in order to avoid it and try to stay in the game. Watch. You’ll see. If he is compelled to testify, this case is over. But if the case goes to trial, you can bank another Meiche-like verdict.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Join his mailing list or offer verifiable tips and story ideas at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
Tags: Daniel Guss, @The Guss Report, Eric Garcetti, John Vidovich, LAFD, whistleblower lawsuits, Stephen Meiche, Garcetti Presidential ambitions, LA Times protection of Garcetti