LAFD gets new anti-nepotism rules in wake of hiring controversy

New rules at LAFD aim to prevent nepotism in firefighter hiring

The Los Angeles Fire Commission adopted new rules Tuesday to prevent conflicts of interest and reform a firefighter hiring process that a city report called “tainted” by concerns of nepotism.

The changes will require all LAFD officials involved in the selection process to notify superiors when they have a friend or family member in the applicant pool. Those officials would be reassigned if their participation in screening candidates or supervising the process could be perceived as a conflict of interest.

"These are common-sense things people should be doing anyway," said Commissioner Jimmie Woods-Gray, one of five civilians on the panel that oversees the department.

The change was recommended in a recent report by the department's internal watchdog. That review began in the spring when Mayor Eric Garcetti suspended LAFD hiring, calling the system “fatally flawed” because it potentially favored department insiders and failed to increase the number of women and minorities in the department’s ranks.

Of the 70 recruits named to a new training class in January, 21 had family members active in the LAFD during the hiring process, amounting to 30% of the total, the report found. Several high-ranking fire officials were moved to different positions due to conflicts of interest after officials learned their sons advanced during the recruitment process. The son of one is now embroiled in a separate controversy, having filed misconduct allegations against his superiors after receiving negative performance reviews.

The LAFD’s hiring process also drew criticism after thousands of candidates were excluded from consideration for the January class because some of their paperwork wasn't received in the first 60 seconds of a filing period. Many applicants said they had no idea mere seconds could determine which candidates would advance.

Garcetti initially vowed to freeze firefighter hiring until a $270,000 report by outside experts was completed on recommendations to improve LAFD hiring. But the mayor later backed a quick reboot of the process to fill three new classes funded in the current city budget.

To keep up on the latest at LAFD headquarters follow @palewire, or email him at ben.welsh@latimes.com.

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