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Downey officials back fire chief
WRITTEN BY :   Eric Pierce

The city of Downey issued a statement supporting Fire Chief Lonnie Croom today, one day after the Downey Firemen’s Association filed a claim accusing Croom of harassment and discrimination.

City officials said it was “premature” to respond to the allegations due to grievance procedures already underway involving Downey firefighters.

“It is disappointing that the Association appears to be using the Tort Claims process to politicize its disagreement with Chief Croom’s objective and candid assessment to the Council regarding the Association’s proposal to contract out fire services to the County,” Mayor Fernando Vasquez said. “Rather than focus on public safety and our residents and respecting the internal process that exists to address their concerns, the tort claim will result in Downey taxpayers footing the bill for expensive and unnecessary litigation.”

Below is the city’s statement in its entirety:

“On December 23, 2013, the Downey Firemen Association ( “Association”) filed a Government Tort Claim against the City of Downey alleging that the Association’s members have been subjected to retaliation.

“The allegations contained in the Government Tort Claim are identical to and the subject of internal grievances that are currently being addressed through the City’s grievance procedures at the request of the Association’s members. Therefore, it is premature for the City to respond to those allegations until that process has run its course. It is also the City’s policy to not comment on pending personnel investigations as they are confidential.

“Mayor Vasquez and members of the Council support Chief Croom’s leadership of the Fire Department and his many accomplishments.

“It is disappointing that the Association appears to be using the Tort Claims process to politicize its disagreement with Chief Croom’s objective and candid assessment to the Council regarding the Association’s proposal to contract out fire services to the County,” stated Mayor Fernando Vasquez. “Rather than focus on public safety and our residents and respecting the internal process that exists to address their concerns, the tort claim will result in Downey taxpayers footing the bill for expensive and unnecessary litigation,” he added.

The tort claim comes on the heels of an Association proposed charter amendment which seeks to eliminate the voters’ right to approve the contracting out of public safety services.

Preliminary studies conducted by the Los Angeles County Fire Department revealed that contracting out fire services can cost Downey taxpayers more than 50 percent over a ten-year period with less staff to provide fire services.”

Meanwhile, the Downey Firemen’s Association filed its own statement Tuesday, claiming the tort claim “is about addressing an environment of retaliation in the workplace which is illegal.”

Here is the fire union’s statement:

“The City of Downey should understand that a tort claim is not a lawsuit. Council member [Alex] Saab, as an attorney, should know this as well.

“The sole purpose at this point for filing a tort claim is to give the city a formal opportunity to evaluate and take corrective action without costing tax payer’s money in litigation.

“This is about addressing an environment of retaliation in the workplace which is illegal.

“We are asking the city to make positive change in this unhealthy workplace environment.”



Published: Tuesday, December 24, 2013, WEB ONLY
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