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City News

L.A. Fire Department's Stone-Age Payroll System Allowed Captain Eric Vasquez to Collect an Extra $77K Last Year

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Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge The Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center, where Vasquez allegedly spiked his pay. - LAVC.EDU
  • lavc.edu
  • The Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center, where Vasquez allegedly spiked his pay.
What year is this, again?

Last month, the L.A. City Fire Department made the kind of upgrade to its payroll system that might have been admirable about a decade ago. In late 2011, it's just embarrassing.

For the first time ever, department officials entered their employees' timecards into a computer (magic!) -- then acted surprised to discover a little foul play. According to documents the LA Daily News obtained through the Public Records Act...

... L.A. Fire Captain Eric Vasquez, a 17-year veteran working at the In-Service Training Division of the Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center (located near Dodger Stadium), had been chalking up some extra hours on his caveman's tablet.

$50,000 for 23 weeks of paid vacation last year, to be exact. On top of a $108,000 annual salary and about $27,000 more for bonuses and overtime. Not quite a 1-percenter, but sitting pretty nonetheless.

Equally unsurprising: He was the same guy "in charge of timekeeping for the section and manually entered the information for vacation pay." The Daily News reports that City Controller Wendy Greuel found around 50 more LAFD employees had made small mark-ups, as well. (This is just getting predictable now.)

L.A. Fire Captain Tina Haro tells the Weekly: "We're not confirming a name, but we do have a member who was placed on administrative leave with pay." So it looks like Vasquez might be collecting cash on his rogue days off, once again -- though his LinkedIn profile begs to differ.

The city's struggle to bring itself into the 21st century would almost be adorable, if it wasn't so mentally challenged:

The alleged discrepancies by Vasquez ... were discovered last month by the City Controller's Office when the department submitted payroll data electronically for the first time.

"The Los Angeles Fire Department and the Los Angeles City Controller's Office have been working collaboratively over the past three years to implement a new payroll system for the LAFD," the [fire department's] statement said.

Three years? Jesus. Maybe the department's diligent Twitterer could have lent some tech advice?

LAFD officials also reassure the Daily News that "the matter is now being investigated by the department's new Professional Standards Division." Awesome: Now we're paying even more firefighters to sit at desks and either 1) do what computers and the City Controller could do, or 2) futz around with ever-inconclusive personnel complaints, a la "LAFD Employees Being Investigated for Adult Videos That Used Fire Trucks as Props." Makes Vasquez almost look like an angel.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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