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City Probe Detects No Improprieties at Stadium

Times Staff Writer

A city investigation into allegations that maintenance workers at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium were improperly used for private jobs, including remodeling work at the homes of stadium executives, has found no evidence of wrongdoing.

The city manager’s office reached that conclusion after an investigation by the police and city auditors, according to a report given to the City Council by John Lockwood, assistant city manager.

While no evidence was found to support the allegations--which were contained in an anonymous letter sent in April--the report said changes are needed to ensure inventory control and keep better track of employees’ work time.

Despite the report’s findings, an executive of Services Employees International Union Local 102, which represents most of the workers, said Tuesday he still believes problems exist at the stadium but that the allegations are difficult to prove because witnesses--many of whom are Spanish-speaking--are reluctant to be interviewed.

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The allegations of misuse of workers and city materials and equipment were outlined in the anonymous letter sent to Pedus Building Services Inc., a Los Angeles-based company that handles stadium maintenance work under a contract with the city.

The letter, which Pedus executives gave to the city manager’s office, alleged that Pedus workers were required to pay kickbacks to their supervisors; employees’s work hours were padded by supervisors; workers were employed on private projects and their time charged to the city; building materials belonging to the city, including brick, lumber and cement, were used for private use and sold for scrap; workers were used to paint the homes of stadium executives while using city paint and supplies, and that the work force included illegal aliens.

With the exception of two incidents, the city’s investigation, which included interviews with city employees, Pedus workers, stadium tenants, vendors, security personnel, private promoters and labor union officials, couldn’t substantiate the allegations.

The investigation found, however, that in 1984, a Pedus employee “did use city equipment consisting of a hose and floor scrapers on a private project. This use was not authorized by Pedus management and was inappropriate.” The exact nature of the project was not specified and Lockwood was unavailable for comment.

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The other incident involved some stadium flag poles that were taken down from the old open end of the stadium and, after being stored for a year, given to a local Little League. “The Little League used some of the poles and the whereabouts of the remaining poles is unknown,” the report said. “The gift to the Little League was a violation of city procedures. The material should have been turned over to the purchasing department for disposal as surplus scrap. Stadium personnel have been advised to follow this procedure in the future.”

The report said building materials and supplies used on “private projects” didn’t belong to the city but were purchased “by private individuals with their own funds . . . “

In an interview with The Times last month, Jack Argent, assistant stadium manager, acknowledged that he and other stadium employees have used Pedus employees to do work at their homes, but stressed that on such occasions the salaries and the cost of supplies were paid by the executives.

The ebb and tide of maintenance work at the stadium--at times as many as 100 people are needed to clean up after games, while daily chores are handled by 15 to 20 people--means that some employees are available for other part-time jobs. “Pedus employees who work at the stadium are authorized to work part time in a variety of other private jobs,” the report said. “However, there is no evidence that any of these employees has charged private job hours to the city.”

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To improve the city’s level of control, the report recommended the following changes in stadium procedures: establishment of inventory control procedures and records for all materials and that such purchases be approved by stadium management; changing locks to all storage areas and restricting access to supervisors only; keeping a record detailing use of materials; installation of a time clock, and requiring Pedus employees to complete labor cards documenting hours worked.

“That’s a step in the right direction,” said Mike Garcia, an organizer for Local 102, about the recommendation requiring better documentation of work hours. But Garcia said he and his union remain convinced that widespread problems continue to exist.

“I guess it (the allegations) was difficult to prove, but we’re fairly convinced there are a lot of problems out there,” Garcia said.

The union became involved when union members complained that workers who “kept quiet and went along” with the alleged improper jobs were receiving the best work schedules. Some of the stadium’s workers were interviewed by police at the union’s headquarters on Cherokee Avenue.

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Police wanted to do follow-up interviews and conduct polygraph tests of the workers, but Garcia said many of the employees--fearful for their jobs and unwilling to become more involved--became extremely nervous. “They were too scared, and we felt that uncomfortable people don’t do well on lie-detector tests,” so the union advised its members against taking the exam, Garcia said.

“We still believe work at the stadium is based on favoritism and who you know,” said Garcia.

When word of the investigation became public last month, stadium officials characterized the allegations as union-initiated and accused Local 102 of posturing for upcoming negotiations, criticism that union officers angrily denied. Negotiations for a new stadium workers’ contract began last week.


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