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Who's to Blame? Readers Contemplate a Deadly Fire and Wells Fargo's Typo

Death of a Firefighter

As Gene Maddaus reported last week, when faulty construction led to a fire that claimed the life of a 36-year LAFD veteran, architect Gerard Becker was charged with manslaughter ("The Man Who Played With Fire"). Readers were divided on Becker's culpability.

"This is clearly a case of insufficient and/or negligent inspection," No Stud writes. "Although I am not a lawyer, the fact that the Building Safety people did not use an ordinary stud detector to find any large voids behind walls would clearly raise a reasonable doubt as to Becker's guilt."

Rebekah Paul disagrees. "He should be charged," she writes. "There were reasons that an outdoor firepit could not be installed indoors, and he didn't care."

Balmerhon takes issue with Becker's attitude. "If he was licensed to do architecture in the U.S., I'd say take away his license, or censure him for a few years to give him time to 'think.' He'll need a lot. In the article, he comes off as blaming the inspector, the firefighters, anyone but himself. What he built was against code, egregiously so in my mind. He should take responsibility for it. He should also consider himself lucky to be alive."

Defending Wells Fargo

Jessica P. Ogilvie's continuing coverage of the saga of Larry Delassus, who had a heart attack in court while fighting the bank that seized his home, generated more outrage last week ("Wells Fargo Typo Victim's Pals to Sue," March 22). But reader David Epstein had a contrarian take.

He writes, "While it's sadly quite fashionable these days to blame every financial problem on banks and Wall Street, it's 100 percent clear from even a cursory reading of the articles that Delassus lost his home for a very simple and very legal reason: He failed to pay his mortgage. While the bank and tax servicer made an error, which resulted in a sharply increased monthly demand from Wells Fargo, Mr. Delassus should have continued making his original — and contractually obligated — mortgage payments while the matter was rectified. Banks are not nonprofit organizations (though the L.A. Weekly staff seems to think they should be perhaps profit-losing enterprises). ... When Mr. Delassus stopped making his payments, he fell into default, and his loan increased because of unpaid principal and missed interest payments. The foreclosure was proper, and there was no way Mr. Delassus could have become whole again on his very modest income. (Frankly, with a mortgage that was about 80 percent of his income, he was going to lose that home sooner or later, I am sorry to say.)

"I am sure the L.A. Weekly's owners have investment accounts, and perhaps they offer a 401(k) for the employees. Some of these monies are invested in loans and banks. Would the employees and owners like to put their money where their mouths are, and suggest to their investment managers that it's OK not to have a return on their money so long as other people benefit?"

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