The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission on Tuesday fined a former city building inspector $100,795 for working on a Hollywood construction project while also providing plumbing services for it through his own company.
All Day Plumbing and Construction, owned by Eugene Day, received payments totaling more than $500,000 for plumbing services at a commercial building at 6500 Selma Ave., according to a city report.
At the same time, Day signed off on his own work at the building in his role as a city plumbing inspector, according to the report from the commission’s Director of Enforcement, Richard Platel.
Day violated governmental ethics laws by misusing his city position for personal gain and by engaging in unauthorized outside employment, the commission found.
The city’s Department of Building and Safety requires its inspectors to deactivate any contracting licenses they might hold so they can’t engage in outside employment under that license, the report stated.
Day didn’t deactivate his plumbing license and continued to operate All Day Plumbing and Construction, according to the report. Nor did he seek permission from the city for the outside work, according to the report. That employment would have been denied because of the conflict of interest, according to Platel’s report.
Day appeared at the hearing Tuesday, but declined to comment to The Times.
In a written brief submitted to the commission, he apologized and said what happened “wasn’t intentional.” Day and his brother started the plumbing company, he wrote, but his brother backed out and left him “in a bad situation.”
“I never worked or performed labor at the project, and since I didn’t perform labor, I didn’t receive any compensation,” Day wrote in his brief. He no longer works for the city.
The penalty against Day is higher than some other recent fines issued by the commission. Earlier this year, a former City Council candidate and his campaign treasurer were fined more than $38,000 for a misuse of campaign contributions and misspending of personal expenses. Last fall, a city employee was fined more than $16,000 for misusing his position to get free parking at a downtown lot.
Day was employed by the Department of Building and Safety and served as a city inspector for the Selma Avenue project from December 2013 to June 2015. Ramland Construction, the general contractor on the project, hired Day in November 2013 to be the plumbing subcontractor, the report said.
The Selma project was outside Day’s downtown inspection area, but after his company signed the subcontracting agreement with Ramland, he offered to serve as the project’s plumbing inspector, according to the commission’s report.
Day visited the project in his official capacity as a city plumbing inspector in December, the report said. He issued an official correction notice to Ramland, requiring a permit for all plumbing being installed at the site, and reviewed the project’s sewage ejector and potable water system.
However, for the next two years,the report said, Day “took little or no action as the Selma project’s city plumbing inspector to determine whether Ramland complied with [the] correction notices he had issued in December 2013. In contrast, he approved work without verifying that appropriate permits had been obtained and allowed other work to be performed outside the scope of existing permits.”
After Day’s conflicting roles were discovered, the Department of Building and Safety removed him as the Selma project’s assigned inspector. Ramland later incurred additional labor and permitting costs “directly related to the corrections, necessary permits and plan check requirements that Day failed to enforce,” according to the report.
Day could have been assessed penalties totaling up to $1.6 million — the amount paid either directly to Day or his business during the time he worked on the Selma project.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Day rejected some of Platel’s findings.
“I didn’t make any money on that job,” Day said. “My wife did make some, but she didn’t make what they’re claiming.” (Platel found that Day’s wife worked for All Day Plumbing and Construction and received $64,308 during the same time period.)
The panel of ethics commissioners debated Day’s punishment on Tuesday, weighing that he had stepped down from his job and wasn’t disputing the inspector’s broader findings. The commissioners also struggled with how much to fine Day given that his company incurred costs at the Selma project and received payments.
Commissioner Rick Davis said the fact that Day apparently sought to work outside his assigned geographic area in order to be on the Selma project was a red flag.
“It’s clear bad behavior, and nothing in the statement and nothing that Mr. Day has said here goes into any amount of explaining this,” Davis said.
Commissioner Andrea Ordin added that “this plays into the very worst suspicions about government. That people who come to inspect can either be bribed or are acting in other ways that are illegal, so the seriousness to me is very, very high.”
On the first count of misuse of position, the commission moved to fine Day $95,795, which was the amount the city report stated that Day personally received from All Day Plumbing during that time. On the second count, unauthorized misuse of position, the commission voted to fine Day $5,000.
The vote was 3-1 with Commissioner Araceli Campos dissenting.
Fines imposed by the City Ethics Commission go to the city’s general fund.