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FBI Bribery Probe of L.A. Building and Safety Inspectors, Supervisors Expands

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Tue, May 31, 2011 at 6:03 AM

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After two L.A. Building and Safety inspectors pleaded guilty to bribery this month it looks like the FBI is expanding its probe of the city department.

The Los Angeles Times reports today that the FBI wants to look at supervisors who were supposed to police the work of the likes of Hugo Joel Gonzalez and Raoul Joseph Germain, who were busted in an FBI sting for taking cash sight-unseen for construction approvals.

Along with those two, the city has placed two others on leave and is "looking at" 10 other workers as part of its own internal investigation, according to the paper.

A federal grand jury has already asked the city for personnel records on 12 Building and Safety employees and ex-workers such as Gonzalez and Germain.

A memo from department chief Robert "Bud" Ovrom to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa obtained by the Times blames the problems, in part, on early retirements that have pared experienced managers who ostensibly could have stopped such bribery in its tracks.

Building and Safety was "not always providing adequate training" to newer managers, he wrote.

An FBI affidavit indicated that bribery was "systemic" for inspectors. Ovrum wrote to the mayor that there are private contractors and land use consultants with "an unusually high working relationship" with some department workers -- and that angle should be probed.

Indeed.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]

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