A key panel of the Los Angeles City Council has agreed that a city gardener improperly used public time and equipment to do private work at a home in San Pedro but could not decide whether his firing by the Recreation and Parks Department should be upheld.
The split decision by a joint committee of the council means the fate of Camilo Mandac, a six-year city employee, will be left to the full council at its meeting Tuesday.
Last September, the department fired Mandac after concluding that he used city equipment, with two day laborers, to work on a private residence where he has been the gardener for 10 years. The department also found that Mandac used a city truck to buy gloves at a store and drop off his daughter at school. Both of those charges were brought to the department’s attention by a call to a city “whistle-blower” hot line.
But after reviewing the case, the Recreation and Parks Commission decided last month that the discipline was excessive. It overturned Mandac’s firing and ordered the department to give him $18,150 in back pay, which led Councilwoman Rita Walters to insist that the council review the matter.
The review began Tuesday when recreation officials stood by their firing of Mandac. “Reinstating Mr. Mandac and paying him over $18,000 is a mockery of the whistle-blower program,” Harold Fujita, a senior personnel analyst for the recreation department, told the council committees.
But Mandac and his attorney, Diane Marchant, denied the city’s accusations, insisting that the gardener did not do private work on city time. And, they said, his immediate supervisors never made an issue of his other alleged indiscretions before his firing.
After a lengthy discussion, only Councilwoman Walters agreed to support Mandac’s dismissal.