Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan on Wednesday denied allegations by the president of the firefighters union that the mayor has tried to get inspectors not to enforce fire codes on his friends' development projects.
Capt. Ken Buzzell, president of the 3,000-member United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, leveled his accusations Monday evening at the close of a hearing of the City Council's Public Safety Committee.
"I will not accept from the mayor anymore, any more of his calls suggesting that I should personally intercede and ask my fire inspectors not to enforce the code so his friends can produce more building projects," Buzzell charged.
His comments touched off applause from the 500 or more firefighters who had filled the council chambers for a hearing on Fire Department issues.
On Wednesday, Riordan's spokeswoman, Noelia Rodriguez, denied the allegation.
"That has never happened. The mayor has never called on [Buzzell] to do any special favors," Rodriguez said.
"Anyone who knows Dick Riordan knows that is simply not his practice."
Buzzell, citing the advice of his attorney, declined to elaborate Wednesday.
His comments startled council members and others at the hearing.
"It left me speechless," the committee's chairwoman, Councilwoman Laura Chick, said Wednesday.
The councilwoman said the city has an obligation to determine whether the mayor has intervened on behalf of friends.
"Because this comment was made on the public record and in a public hearing," she said, "it should be scrutinized."
Chick said the city attorney's office and the Ethics Commission have been informed of Buzzell's statement.
"It is my understanding that both of those entities are aware of the comment," she said.
Officials from the city attorney's office and Ethics Commission were unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Buzzell's allegations are likely to further strain relations between the mayor and the union and turn a looming budget battle into a personal confrontation.
The union has charged that Riordan is trying to decimate the 3,100-member department by forcing it to cut operating costs so he can hire more police officers--a charge denied by the mayor's office.
To underscore their concern, several hundred firefighters attended a union rally held downtown on Monday before marching to the council hearing.