Judge Rejects Doctor's Bid to Regain City Post

Times Staff Writer

A former acting medical director for the city of Los Angeles, who claimed that he was fired because he protested certifying physically unfit police and fire trainees, failed Friday in a court bid to get his job back.

Dr. John Ong Jr. came to public attention on March 11, 1981, when he testified before City Councilman Ernani Bernardi's Committee on Police, Fire and Public Safety. He said he and other physicians were being pressured by city personnel administrators to certify police and fire candidates who had visual, psychological, orthopedic and other problems that failed to meet city health standards.

He claimed that he was fired July 31, 1981, in retaliation for his appearance before the committee and later the full council to discuss the examinations.

Ong's civil suit, prepared by attorney Mary Ann Healy, claimed that the ouster violated his constitutional rights to due process of law (because he was given no hearing), freedom of speech and the right to petition government for redress of grievances.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John L. Cole decided, however, that Ong's dismissal had nothing to do with the doctor's comments to council members.

Continued to Advertise

Despite Ong's insistence that he had been named permanent medical director, the judge said he was convinced the city intended Ong to serve as acting director only temporarily because it had continued to advertise for a permanent medical director.

The judge denied Ong's claim that the city had interfered with his right to practice medicine, noting the city had offered Ong his former job as a physician in the Personnel Department, which the doctor refused.

Deputy City Atty. Byron R. Boeckman said in written arguments that Ong was fired for "inability to provide medical leadership for the department in meeting the city's overall personnel goals."

Boeckman, denying that doctors were coerced into approving any unfit applicants, said Ong specifically failed to provide timely examinations and reports on the applicants; to prepare protocols for the jail dispensary; to set up an examination system for "sedentary" jobs and to conform the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to the City Medical Guidelines.

Suit's Accusation

Ong's suit accused Personnel Department General Manager John Driscoll of instituting a policy in 1980 "of intimidating, threatening, coercing and pressuring petitioner Dr. Ong as well as other members of the medical staff to render diagnoses of applicants that would qualify them for police and fire employment when, in the medical judgment of Dr. Ong and the medical staff, such applicants did not meet the written medical standards set forth in the Civil Service rules."

Boeckman denied any such policy existed, but stated in written documents that, because of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, the department attempted to admit some applicants who formerly would have been disqualified, with a notation in their files that they were "medically limited."

Cole said Ong properly could be dismissed as acting medical director without a hearing because the position was not a Civil Service job and because his constitutional "liberty" rights had not been infringed.

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