By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Some legal experts say that Delgadillo just got scared. Employee-rights attorney Paterson says, “If you have a plaintiff’s attorney who knows how to pitch to a jury and is a real F. Lee Bailey or Gerry Spence, that guy will get more money . . . Just to be able to sit at a table and agree to get the city attorney to pay $2.7 million, [Harrison] obviously knows how to negotiate.”
If not for “a couple of guys at a radio station and a couple of guys sending in photos,” Paterson says, Harrison “would have taken 50 percent of that and be spending it now.”
In January, the city hired the law ?firm of Jones, Day to represent ?the city and the Fire Department in court. Jones, Day couldn’t be reached for comment. Meanwhile, the mayor has ordered all city agencies to develop strict risk-management strategies that would require managers to track all claims and to spell out steps to reduce future liabilities.
Some critics say that harassment claims against city departments have been on the rise since Schifando v. City of Los Angeles, a California Supreme Court ruling that allows employees to sidestep municipal grievance rules and sue the city for employment discrimination. The downside is that it has also made it a lot easier for clever and aggressive attorneys to make a buck.
“There are five times as many lawyers identifying themselves as employment-rights lawyers now than there were 10 years ago, and that probably contributes to the rise in claims,” says Jeffrey Winikow, an employee-rights attorney.
With pressure from the City Council and black leaders, Fire Chief William Bamattre resigned last December for failing to control hazing, ending a career in which he oversaw a dramatic increase in funding and staffing for the department. During his tenure, 20 new fire stations were built, he started a wellness program to keep firefighters in shape, upgraded equipment, expanded fire-prevention programs, added a paramedic to every fire-engine crew — and helped make the LAFD one of the most diverse big-city forces in the nation.
Echoing the thoughts of many rank and file, firefighter John Patchett says, “I think it is terrible. He was a fine, fine man. If this was truly a racial incident and involved someone who was harassed and humiliated, then maybe it was something the chief deserved, but it wasn’t that way. It was a prank.”
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