By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Adelman had drawn criticism before. In 2002, representatives of the city personnel department contacted veteran personnel director Gina Tervalon regarding complaints they had received about alleged discrimination and harassment by Adelman. According to court documents, Tervalon met with representatives of the Mayor’s Office, City Attorney’s Office and the personnel department, who requested that she provide information regarding misconduct by Adelman. Tervalon submitted a written complaint detailing numerous allegations, which she claims went unaddressed.
In 2004 Tervalon filed a retaliation lawsuit alleging verbal abuse that got dismissed, but in a separate lawsuit by another department employee she has stated that Adelman, chief of code enforcement Dave Keim, former chief of the engineering bureau Ray Chan (now Adelman’s executive officer who was accused of sexual harassment), and former executive officer Walt Krukow have violated Civil Service Commission rules, the City Charter and the department’s own policy in promoting a number of employees to the position of assistant deputy superintendent.
Tervalon further states that in June 2003, former chief of development services Steve MacDonald told her he had been approached by Keim with a handwritten list of who was to be promoted, and instructions to rate them accordingly at their civil-service interviews. According to Tervalon’s declaration, MacDonald later told her that Adelman instructed him not to reveal that promotions had been predetermined. Tervalon describes what she considers a manipulation of the process designed to promote individuals with lower scores on the civil-service exam, and states that Adelman and Keim accused a commercial building inspector who scored high of being “on the take,” in an attempt to derail his career.
RICHARD SANCHEZ WAS AMONG THE NINE employees who protested the civil-service process in 2000, and since that time has been at odds with Adelman and Keim. In his 2004 complaint of discrimination, harassment and retaliation, Sanchez paints a tawdry picture of the department under Adelman. Sanchez’s troubles coincide with those of Phillip Kaainoa, allegedly because of their involvement with the Los Angeles Professional Managers Association. Sanchez’s network of contacts also shows him to have close relationships with prominent lobbyists as well as current and former elected officials.
Sanchez claims that Adelman accused him of attempting to undermine management in the course of conversations with lobbyist Darlene Kuba, who represented the union, and who at one time had considerable influence in City Hall. Sanchez also claims that former City Councilman Nick Pacheco, whose campaign he worked on, requested that Adelman appoint Sanchez as a liaison to the council, but that Adelman refused. Sanchez claims that Adelman filed a complaint with the LAPD in which he accused Sanchez of attempting to extort money from the department. No criminal charges were ever filed.
According to Sanchez’s complaint, Adelman told department employees that Sanchez and colleague Robert Martin were on the “dark side,” and that they accepted bribes from developers. Again, no criminal charges were filed.
Sanchez has his own gripes about Adelman. In the summer of 2001, Councilwoman Jan Perry made two requests to Adelman to assign Sanchez to her office to chair a special task force on building and safety and urban maintenance issues in the 9th Council District. Adelman refused.
In September 2001, at Adelman’s request, assistant deputy superintendent of building Thomas Stevens organized an inspection of an adaptive reuse project owned by developer Tom Gilmore on a “rush” basis, according to the complaint. Stevens told Sanchez that Adelman insisted on approval of the Continental Building, at the corner of 4th and Spring streets, for a certificate of occupancy despite “serious fire and life-safety problems in violation of building and other codes.”
The complaint further states that a month later, in October 2001, Perry asked Sanchez to investigate several complaints regarding Gilmore projects in her district. Sanchez reported to Perry that Adelman approved Gilmore’s properties at 408 and 410 S. Spring St., and 408, 410 and 411 S. Main St., “despite existing serious fire and life-safety violations.” Sanchez claims that Adelman has slandered, demoted and harassed him for reporting alleged “unlawful practices,” according to the complaint. He also claims that Adelman instructed city officials to lobby for Gilmore before the city attorney.
IN APRIL, THEWEEKLY REPORTED that downtown land banker Richard Meruelo demolished industrial buildings containing toxic substances without a permit. Witnesses to the demolition say they saw city vehicles observing the demolition at 1060 N. Vignes St., which is close to the Gold Line Metro, wedged between Union Station and Chinatown. After the story appeared, chief of code enforcement Dave Keim leaped to action and convened a rare hearing to determine whether Meruelo, who is being investigated for potential environmental violations by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, should be prevented from developing the property for five years. According to photographs presented at the hearing, Building and Safety inspectors observed the demolition before the property was entirely cleared, and notified Meruelo that he violated city law. Yet for months the department took no enforcement action.
Court documents and documents obtained by the Weekly show that Meruelo has enjoyed soft treatment before. Veteran inspectors say those who protest are in for a heap of trouble. A December 2001 letter to Assistant General Manager Rhonda Sims-Lewis of the city personnel department from Phillip Kaainoa states that since April of that year, Meruelo ignored numerous notices to stop all grading work at 761 Terminal St., the site of the Alameda Produce Market, and continued to import soil for purposes of filling a large basement without permits or inspections. Kaainoa states that Ray Chan, then chief of inspection, waived the permit requirements against the advice of principal inspectors, including Sanchez, and the chief engineer of the grading division, David Hsu. He called it an “example of the climate and policies initiated by Andrew Adelman, through his appointments of individuals who support his agenda without regard [for] the ordinances.”