In the absence of Fire Department management taking a leadership role in addressing the acts of gross negligence and misconduct, the president of The Encinitas Firefighters Association met with me to address the misconduct outlined in blog post last week on the Leucadia Blog.
The president confirmed that all of the accusations were true and clarified a few of the exact details. He stated, “Yes, those incidents did, in fact, happen.” In additional dialogue, he made it clear that corrective action was taken. The full details and extent of the corrective action were not given. The union president had no documentation of the investigations, corrective action taken or measures taken to prevent them from happening again.
In a modern and open government there should be a systematic approach to investigating acts of misconduct or personnel complaints involving public employees, and fire department-sworn personnel in particular. For instance, in the city of Los Angeles, the fire department responds to more than 300,000 emergency calls per year with 3,500 sworn personnel serving 4 million citizens.
In emergency services, accidents and mistakes happen — it’s a given. In L.A., all complaints or acts of misconduct are investigated via a standardized process and ultimately documented and reported to an oversight committee. Then, the corrective actions taken are published for the public to read.
As far as the public can figure out, the city of Encinitas has no system to process personnel complaints, and it is possible that the misconduct was never properly investigated, thoroughly documented or properly reported. I am interested in knowing what disciplinary guidelines were used. What is the actual investigation process for city employees in Encinitas?
In December of last year, I tried to file a complaint with the city against the Parks and Recreation Department manager for making false and misleading statements and falsifying a department report. Ultimately, his false statements and documents led the City Council to vote on a revision of a city ordinance. When the evidence of false and misleading reports and statements were presented to the city manager, City Council and city attorney, it was ignored and I was told that the city has no system of investigating personnel complaints and that the city attorney could only investigate at the direction of the City Council.
In researching the city’s policy on ethics, I accessed a little known and hidden manual called, “The City’s Administrative Manuals.” I could not find any policy on personnel investigations or disciplinary action. The only documents I found closely related were Administrative Manual Policy P-25 Code of Ethics and G-26 Public Inquiry Policy. The Code of Ethics Policy was 23 years old, and the Public Inquiry Policy was 19 years old. Nether reflected any revisions or updates. Shouldn’t a modern city have updated ethics and public information policy to reflect current trends?
At this point, with regard to fire department misconduct, the fire chief, city manager and City Council refuse to acknowledge or comment on the misconduct. I thank the union president for stepping up to the plate and clarifying some of the issues, although there are many more. It took leadership for him to step up, and as a professional firefighter myself, I admire it.
The union president is in a tough position. In a city that harbors nepotism, cronyism and favoritism in pursuing career advancement, one shouldn’t make waves or step on anyone’s toes. The city firefighters are beginning negotiations for a new contract in July. I’m sure they are interested in increases in benefits and wages. As generous as our city is with wages and benefits (city managers, as an example) the firefighters are likely to succeed regardless of poor management or department performance.
Oh, I might mention that historically, Encinitas city management receives the same pay and benefit increases as the rank and file. Management says the department has done such a good job we need to give them and ourselves a raise! The fire chief certainly benefits by covering up mismanagement while padding the $170,000 a year pension he will receive for the rest of his life.
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