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L.A. fire commissioner says union pressure led Garcetti to remove him from panel

Board of Fire Commissioners Vice President Andrew Glazier
Board of Fire Commissioners member Andrew Glazier at a January 2020 meeting at City Hall East.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

A longtime member of the citizen panel overseeing the Los Angeles Fire Department says Mayor Eric Garcetti is removing him from his post at the request of the powerful firefighters union.

The decision to replace Andrew Glazier on the Board of Fire Commissioners when his term expires this month has led to a messy and dramatic episode at City Hall, exposing tensions between the fire union and the five-member commission.

A Garcetti spokesman confirmed that Glazier is not being reappointed but denied that “politics” were involved. The union said it isn’t behind the commissioner’s departure.

“Mayor Garcetti makes decisions about who sits on the Fire Commission solely with Angelenos’ safety in mind, not politics,” said Alex Comisar, the mayor’s spokesman.

Comisar said Glazier’s time on the panel is ending after eight years to “allow other committed Angelenos” the chance to serve.

City commission posts are typically given to supporters of the mayor. The vast majority are unpaid. Public disputes between commissioners and the mayor’s office are rare, making the backlash surrounding Glazier’s exit unusual.

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Garcetti is on track to miss his goal to greatly increase the number of female LAFD firefighters, renewing questions about why more women aren’t on the force.

Groups representing Black and female firefighters are urging Garcetti to reconsider his decision to remove Glazier. And some of the other fire commissioners are criticizing his removal.

On Wednesday, Garcetti nominated Corinne Tapia Babcock, who sits on the Board of Fire and Police Pension Commissioners, to fill the spot being vacated by Glazier on the fire commission.

Known as a commissioner who regularly challenged LAFD policies, Glazier was first appointed in 2013 by Garcetti to serve out the remaining term of another commissioner. Garcetti reappointed Glazier in 2016 to a full five-year term.

Glazier is the first Garcetti appointee on the fire commission not to be retained. One member, Steve Fazio, was appointed by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and stepped down in 2015 to run for state Senate, Fazio confirmed.

Glazier wrote a letter last month to several people at the LAFD saying it wasn’t his decision to step down.

In the letter, reviewed by The Times, Glazier said he had “learned” that Freddy Escobar, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, or UFLAC, “demanded” his removal in exchange for the fire union’s support of a high-profile alternative policing program backed by Garcetti.

The city-county program, promoted last year by the mayor in the months after George Floyd’s murder, would use mental health specialists to respond to non-emergency 911 calls.

“I am not certain how the [city-county program] became tied to my removal; since it hasn’t yet come for discussion at a Board of Fire Commission[ers] meeting, I do not know if the proposed pilot program is good policy or not,” Glazier wrote.

Glazier is chief executive of a nonprofit that runs employment training programs for currently and formerly incarcerated people, according to his LinkedIn page. He declined to comment to The Times, saying his letter speaks for itself.

Glazier said he was told by a “senior official” in the mayor’s office that Escobar asked for Glazier’s removal in exchange for the union’s support for the program, KPCC reported.

Escobar, in an email to The Times, denied that UFLAC was involved in Glazier’s departure and said the union continues to oppose the city-county response program. The program would place county workers in or near city fire stations, which the union opposes, Escobar said.

“The notion that UFLAC ‘demanded’ anything of the mayor’s office, let alone something as inconsequential as an advisory member of the fire commission, is completely false and absolutely ludicrous,” Escobar said.

“The fact that he is making patently untrue allegations about both the mayor’s office and UFLAC while he is headed out the door should tell you everything you need to know about this individual,” he added.

Escobar also told KPCC that the decision not to renew Glazier’s term “is a good thing for the city and the LAFD.”

Another fire commissioner, Rebecca Ninburg, said in an email to The Times that a top Garcetti staffer informed her about the union’s displeasure with Glazier.

“I was told back in February of this year, by a senior mayor’s staff, that Andrew’s line of questioning makes the union upset, and they’re holding up the alternative dispatch [program] negotiations because the union is angry with him,” Ninburg said.

Ninburg said that during the same conversation, the senior staffer asked her to move to another commission, but Ninburg declined.

Comisar, Garcetti’s spokesman, declined to comment on Ninburg’s statements.

Another commissioner, Jimmie Woods Gray, said she was “very upset” to hear that Glazier was leaving. “He does the work,” she said. “He investigates, he researches, he visits [the fire stations] — all the firefighters know him.”

Glazier and Ninburg have at times clashed with Escobar at commission meetings, particularly over issues such as the LAFD’s inability to dramatically boost the number of female firefighters. At the same time, union leaders have suggested that the commissioners are overstepping their roles.

At a January 2020 meeting, Glazier said during a discussion about female firefighters that the department’s culture “avoids actively confronting uncomfortable truths,” which prompted Escobar to tell Glazier that his comments were “insulting.”

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The Stentorians of Los Angeles City, which represents African American firefighters, said in a letter sent last week to Garcetti’s office that it is “unwise to discontinue the service of one of our strongest allies in the department.”

“Today’s atmosphere is in tremendous upheaval, unrest, and have created uncertain times broken out along racial lines,” wrote Gerald Durant, president of the Stentorians. Glazier’s “departure would be an enormous loss to the department’s strides to create a membership that reflects the city we serve.”

Kristine Larson, president of Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service, also sent a letter to city leaders, noting that Glazier is a “strong proponent for equity, inclusion and diversity at all ranks.”

Several years ago, UFLAC pressured Garcetti’s office to remove a top fire inspector from his post at the LAFD. The fire inspector was transferred out of his job and later sued the city, which agreed to pay him $800,000 to settle the case.

It’s unclear what kind of relationship Glazier and Garcetti have today, but they have appeared close in the past. Garcetti officiated at Glazier’s wedding and, in 2004, introduced a resolution that praised him for his work for the city and the Los Angeles Unified School District.


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