LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles Fire Department Inspector Glenn Martinez is at the center of a firestorm.
An internal Fire Department memo obtained by CBS2’s David Goldstein alleges Martinez committed fraud and falsification of records, as well as allegations of a phantom fire inspection on the campus of an elementary school on Darwin Avenue in L.A. that had been closed prior to that inspection.
Martinez wasn’t the only inspector allegedly conducting phantom inspections: Goldstein obtained dozens of LAFD reports showing inspections of facilities that were out of business.
The Victoria Byrd Family Daycare is one of them.
Once operating out of a home in South Los Angeles, LAFD records show it was inspected in 2014, 2012, 2011, and twice in 2010.
But state records show the facility closed in 1993.
One former member of the department who would only talk if his identity was concealed said these are called “rainy day” inspections, where inspectors would sign off without ever leaving the office.
“Those inspections are easy cover not to do any work,” he said. “No one knows if you were ever there or not. There’s not follow up on them.”
Former L.A. Fire Marshal John Vidovich, who was appointed in 2014 to catch up on delinquent inspections, says he was cracking down on rainy day inspections.
“We attempted to institute a quality assurance program where we could follow up on inspectors, and that one, we got a lot of pushback from the union and ultimately had to stand down,” said Vidovich.
In a claim for damages against the city, Vidovich said the firefighters’ union advised a plan to oust him from his position and alleges the union struck an illicit deal with Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Vidovich said the union agreed to endorse the mayor for re-election and contribute to his campaign, and afterward he was officially terminated from his position as fire marshal.
When asked if he thinks Garcetti was behind his termination, Vidovich responded, “Absolutely, I do.”
In his first interview after his removal, Vidovich claims Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas even told him so.
“I said, ‘Why?’, and he says, ‘They’ve got me over a barrel.’ And I said, ‘Who’s the ‘they’?’ He says, ‘The mayor’s office’. I said, ‘Who in the mayor’s office?’ And he said, ‘the mayor’,” said Vidovich.
“And I said, ‘Wait, you tell me Mayor Eric Garcetti is telling you to remove me’, and he said, ‘Yes’,” he added.
Goldstein showed the interview to Chief Terrazas and asked, “Did you tell him that?”
“No, and I’m not gonna comment any further,” Terrazas replied. “I’m very disappointed about that statement because it’s not accurate.”
“You didn’t tell him that the mayor was behind his removal?” asked Goldstein.
“I did not,” Terrazas said. “Absolutely not.”
“So he’s lying?”
“I’m not gonna say that. I believe he believes that’s true,” said Terrazas. “I have never had that conversation, never will, never have.”
Garcetti also denied.
“Categorically false,” he said. “I love John Vidovich, I love my chief, and I let him manage the department.”
The mayor also denied political contributions played a part.
“Zero percent. I always play pool with my buddies,” said Garcetti. “It has nothing to do with any of my decisions.”
Vidovich disagreed, saying, “You know, again I think it’s purely politics.”
For his part, Martinez has also filed a claim against the city, saying inspectors were forced to rush inspections, and that led to falsified fire reports – but he didn’t want to talk to Goldstein about it.
The fire chief says he has no timetable on when these investigation will be completed, but according to city rules, the investigation must wrap up one year from when it began.