Report: L.A. County Fire Officials Ignored Warnings About Hiring Issues

For years, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials ignored evidence of the sort of nepotism and cheating that have brought heightened scrutiny to the agency’s hiring and promotion practices, according to records and interviews, reports The Los Angeles Times.

A veteran fire captain warned high-ranking department officials in 2012 that family members made up a disproportionate number of recruits and that confidential interview material used in hiring was circulating freely through the station houses, county records recently obtained by The Times show.

Officials now acknowledge that the captain’s allegations were never investigated.

It wasn’t the first time the department had been made aware of such problems.

In 2008 and 2010, department managers were notified that firefighter candidates might have gotten their hands on similar material before their interviews, according to a county audit triggered by a Times investigation. Officials could not say whether any corrective measures were taken, auditors reported last week.

The case of the captain, Perry Vermillion, offers a possible reason for the department’s failure to act. In pressing his allegations, he told the county Civil Service Commission that his own union representative – a fire captain in the department – instructed him to keep quiet about cheating because the representative’s son would be in an upcoming academy class for recruits. The son was later hired.

Vermillion, who has since retired, also said in documents submitted to the commission that a quarter of the recruits who won a spot in an academy class were the “children/kin of fire chiefs and captains.”

Vermillion’s representative at the time, Dave Morse, declined to be interviewed but said in an email to The Times that “the allegations made by Mr. Vermillion in unsworn pleadings and statements to the Civil Service Commission regarding statements allegedly made by me, are false. The statements attributed to me by Mr. Vermillion were not in fact made by me.”

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