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Monday, November 20, 2006

Mayor’s Statement on Hazing in the Workplace

By Jennifer Solis

I just finished transcribing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s press conference, which DN columnist Rick Orlov was kind enough record for me. Thanks, Rick -- I owe you one.

“Hazing is reckless, reprehensible and juvenile. Any conduct that demeans, or makes people feel unwelcome in the workplace will not be tolerated – period. City employees need to remember that public service is an honor -- it is a privilege – and I know that the overwhelming number of employees feel that way.

“They work hard. They come to their jobs every day with a full respect for the opportunity that they’ve been given. Above all, they know that the taxpayers have an unqualified right to expect that their civil servants will conduct themselves at all times as complete professionals.

“Today, I’ve issued an executive directive declaring a zero tolerance policy against hazing in all city departments. It’s time to end this practice once and for all. It’s time to break the cycle, where necessary. It’s time to change the culture.

“We’re one city workforce, serving one community. Behavior that divides us has no place in the City of Los Angeles. This executive directive … will provide for the immediate investigation and discipline in any alleged case of hazing. It requires all city departments to report back on past hazing incidents and to recommend tougher guidelines for handling incidents in the future.

“I’m pleased to say that the Fire Commission will soon be considering a set of improved disciplinary guidelines following a series of audits by Controller Laura Chick. These tougher disciplinary guidelines will strengthen accountability standards in 144 different categories of misconduct. Employees engaging in hazing or horseplay will be subject to disciplinary action, including suspension and possible termination.”

The Mayor then went on to comment specifically on the Tennie Pierce case:

“Like every Angelino, I am deeply troubled by the allegations raised here. We cannot tolerate discrimination in any form. However, new information has come to light since the city attorney’s recommended settlement of the case. I believe that this information merits a re-examination of the matter.
Given the magnitude of the recommended settlement, taxpayers have the right to demand reconsideration with the full benefit of all the facts. . .

“We have a fundamental fiduciary responsibility to insure the wise use of tax dollars. Accordingly, I am returning this item with my veto with the request that the city get back to work on the case. My veto of this action will permit a reconsideration of settlement in light of all the evidence surrounding the claims in the lawsuit.

“I want to stress however, that the alleged behavior underlying this case must be eliminated in our city workforce. As this case illustrates, hazing creates a serious risk of legal liability for the city, and it undermines the professionalism that we expect in the workplace. That’s why we are going to take a hard line and adopt a zero tolerance policy with respect to hazing”

Jennifer’s random thoughts while listening to the Mayor’s speech:

Does anyone have any confidence in City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s ability to investigate these cases and analyze ALL the facts? How many of these cases are handled by private law firms which have no stake in the outcome, in terms of taxpayer liability?

For example, were there in-depth interviews with enough of the witnesses at the fire house that night who would have established the context of this and other pranks? Or did the city attorney investigators simply conduct enough questions to go through the motions, and gather enough words on sheets of paper to earn their fees?

One good result of this controversy could come if the city council, or some taxpayer watchdog group, takes a close look into how the investigation of these cases is handled, and what can be done to improve the way the city treasury can be protected from such claims. Certainly, the outrageous amounts given out in these lawsuits must be capped, commensurate to actual damage, such as exists in medical malpractice claims in California. Hurt feelings should be worth no more than a dollar.

Why should the city taxpayers be liable for the misbehavior of city employees, who act outside of approved policy and common sense? It’s the deep pockets of the municipality which motivates most of these lawsuits in the first place.

When journalists asked the city attorney last week what he considered to be the rationale for the Pierce settlement, Delgadillo refused to comment because of what he termed “attorney-client privilege.” Who are his clients in this matter? Certainly not city council members –they didn’t elect the city attorney – WE DID!!!

We are also the people who actually are being sued – the citizens of Los Angeles. It was partially his refusal to come clean, and divulge the reasons for his recommendation that fanned the flames of protest by his constituents.

The solution to enforcing a prohibition on hazing will be to fine, suspend or fire employees who are found participating in, or condoning, this kind of workplace behavior.

The fireman who brought the claim was a long-time perpetrator of these kinds of pranks. He hazed and humiliated others, and finally became a victim of a similar joke. He doesn’t deserve a penny of taxpayer money.

Labels:

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Jennifer,
delete this thread
it's too long

November 20, 2006 9:35 PM  

Blogger Walter Moore said:

If the City had accepted the settlement, and then discovered that the law firm handling the case for the City had done a slap-dash job of investigating the facts, the City could sue for legal malpractice.

There's an expression in the law: "For every wrong, there is a remedy."

November 20, 2006 10:55 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

"why should the city taxpayers be liable for the misbehavior of city employees, who act outside of approved policy and common sense?"

In response, when policies are loosely enforced and/or the powers that be, turn a blind eye to what is going on in their departments. This includes managers, department heads and...the city council.

I have personal knowledge of things that go on in the city and nothing is done, until someone goes public, someone is harmed in whatever way or the city is embarrassed!

November 20, 2006 11:08 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Just wait until the other lawsuits make the news.

Not all of them are "frivolous."

The pressure isn't over yet for Fire Chief Bamattre and his "yes men", Chief Rueda, Chief Fox and Chief Mack.

Mayor - do your job and fire these boobs.

November 21, 2006 1:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Attn: Ken & John, John Ziegler, Kevin James, et al
PLEASE NOTE:

The Mechista Mayor says he wants to "CHANGE OUR CULTURE"!!!!!!!!!

Hazing and pranking is a long-time AMERICAN TRADITION, and this midget had the audacity to come out today and issued an EDICT banning all hazing! He said he wants to change THE CULTURE!!!!!

Once again, ths midget mayor got caught with his pants down! Instead of admitting that his Mechista City Council and City Attorney are INCOMPETENT, he blamed the AMERICAN TRADITION of hazing and pranking!

PRANKING AND HAZING has been an AMERICAN tradition with firefighters and cops...it relieves some of the tension, stress and life-threatening situations they face EVERY DAY!

Instead, this Mechista mayor issues an EDICT that all hazing MUST STOP!!!! He is attacking AMERICAN traditions again!

Villagrossa would have no idea, of course, about AMERICAN traditions...his CULTURE is gangbanging and corruption!

The regime at City Hall is incompetent, corrupt, and anti-American! Send them back to the barrios!!!!!

November 21, 2006 4:36 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

How embarrassing our midget mayor comes out this late in the game!!! Could it be he wants to take the spotlight away from Tony Castro's scathing story on his personal life? You bet. How dumb must the clowncil members feel knowing that every talk show host and newspaper are talking about their incompetent, nitwits not having brains or intelligence to have reconsidered? I want to know DID they see the photos when they were advised to settle??????

November 21, 2006 5:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

To 4:36 am:

Villaraigosa finally does something right, even though its only lip service at this point, and you can't even give him a tiny bit of credit?

You have no clue how many disciplinary problems & law suits the city has already have to deal with regarding hazing incidents. The mayors comments in this matter are correct.

And anyways.....shaving another guys crotch....WTF??????????

November 21, 2006 7:42 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I'm waiting to see what Jhon & Ken from KFI find in the public info document filed on how many of these frivolous lawsuits the clowncil has paid out.

Watch out for Parks to fight this tooth and nail because the con firefighter is black.

November 21, 2006 9:19 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

OK, the Mayor wants to vetoes the verdict in this case. That's just it, the verdict is for this case only and not any other case. Although Mr. Pierce may have been involved in previous hazing stunts, he was not brought up on charges by the alleged victim. Maybe the alleged victim was not as humiliated by the hazing incident as it occurs all the time. Ask any rookie fireman, policeman, athlete or political operative.

How many times have you told a rookie political operative that they had to do all the heavy lifting or go make a coffee run and not give him/her any money? How many times have you said "that's a job for the volunteers".

So if Mr. Pierce felt humiliated and that the hazing went too far and created a hostile work environment, that was his right to file a lawsuit. Don't make it a race thing. Mr. Pierce has every right to collect his money as a jury sided with him.

AV should not take any past hazing incidents in which Mr. Pierce was the perpetrator into account as justification for his veto. Maybe that's why he didn't pass the bar. He could not distinguish one act from the other.

November 21, 2006 10:38 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

The Mayor obviously hates black people.

Are we back in the 1950's Pete Navarroooon?

November 21, 2006 10:50 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

WHO IS KROD?

WHY DID HE ATTACK?

WHY IS HE SO LONELY AND BITTER?

LAObserved’s Kevin Roderick thinks it might be bilingualism, but I doubt it. Rather, look for a large-scale affirmative action program on the level of the Times’ much-vaunted Latino Initiative program in 1998. For those of you not nerdy enough to know, it was a paper-wide effort to do what Hiller will probably propose: hire more Latino writers while making everyone else write more stories about Latinos whether they’re deserving or not. “Considering Latinos make up 40 percent of the population in Greater Los Angeles,” a press release from the Times boasts, “it’s a no-brainer to figure out the ‘why’ behind this action.” The Latino Initiative obviously failed, ’cause here we are again.

November 21, 2006 11:29 AM  

Anonymous john mcdonald said:

just went to the TP press conference downtown. anybody interested in a few facts?

all this is from sworn depositions:

1) arevalo, that fed pierce the dogfood, used racist language with another black FF months prior

2) arevalo had serious problems with another black FF at the station, a woman. real treasure, this guy

3) a captain bought the dogfood

4) a black battalion chief wrote the initial disciplinary reports re: both white captains involved. the reports somehow disappeared. new, altered reports were written by a white supervsior and the black battallion chief's name was added without his authorization.

5) all the involved FFs met for a private breakfast to discuss how to handle the incident. first time ever they all met at one time outside the station, and the only guy not invited was the new FF, a black guy.

6) the LAFD found that there was an effort to cover-up the incident. came to that conclusion themselves and admitted it on the record.

7) both times tennie tried to come back, they'd only station at the same place the incident occurred

8) numerous incidents took place where guys rode him mercilessly, even in front of supervisors.

while the photos do not look good, the fact is they were not the smoking-gun KFI would like you to believe. they were standard practice in the FD, and pierce's in particular were more than 10 years old. as in most cases - any thoughts here, walter? - each is judged on its own merits. just because pierce pranked someone else does not automatically discredit his claim.

what most of you fail to grasp is that the crux of the case is not the dogfood, it's the cover-up and retalliation that followed. by law, an employer is required to protect its employees, and let's just say those 2 audits in 1994 and 2006 are pretty damning. not only that, the fire chief said they were accurate. and the LAFD itself said there was a "cover-up" re: the pierce.

maybe we should all get second jobs, this trial is gonna get costly...

john mcdonald

November 21, 2006 4:08 PM  

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