A number of Los Angeles County Fire Department employees will face dismissal or lesser punishment as part of a crackdown on cheating in the agency’s hiring process, fire Chief Daryl Osby said Wednesday.
Osby did not disclose the precise number of employees who could be fired or otherwise disciplined, but said it was fewer than 50. An inquiry by the county Auditor-Controller Department found that the employees improperly accessed or shared confidential testing material used to hire firefighters, Osby said.
The inquiry was triggered by a Times investigation last year into nepotism and cheating in the department. The Times reported that at least 13% of county firefighters on the payroll as of 2012 were related to someone currently or previously on the force, according to birth, marriage and other records. In addition, the investigation determined that department insiders could easily get their hands on questions and answers used in interviews of job applicants, material that was supposed to be kept under lock and key.
Osby said employees implicated in the auditor’s probe will be notified of impending discipline within two or three weeks.
“While the numbers show that cheating was far from endemic or widespread, I absolutely will not tolerate any behavior that undermines the integrity of our department,” Osby said in a statement.
He also announced that more than 4,500 people have applied for firefighter positions under a new recruitment regimen that seeks to eliminate nepotism and cheating. The applicants began taking a written examination Wednesday at the Pomona Fairplex. The department also will soon implement its first anti-nepotism policy, he said.
“Today we turn the page from our past and are beginning a new era in the 92-year history of the department,” Osby said. “We’re opening a chapter of test integrity with an exam process that is fair, transparent and provides equal opportunities for people to work in one of the county’s great public service agencies.”