- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles County Fire Department will begin tracking the hiring of relatives and is drafting an anti-nepotism policy after a newspaper investigation found that its hiring process favors family members.

A Los Angeles Times investigation (https://lat.ms/1rFmWjo ) released Sunday analyzed records and found that at least 183 sons of current or former firefighters have been hired since the start of 2012.

The department, which serves 4 million people in a 2,300-square-mile area, is one of the largest local fire agencies in the country and offers six-figure pay and generous benefits.

In the last seven years, more than 12,600 people have applied and nearly 95 percent have been turned away.

At that rate, the newspaper says, an improbable number of more than 3,000 sons would have had to apply to make up 183 hired firefighters.

Fire officials could not explain how so many family members were able to land jobs with the department.

“Our awareness has been raised about nepotism and cronyism,” said Deputy Chief Anthony Marrone, the department’s spokesman. “That’s a positive thing.”

The newspaper found that firefighters circulated lists of questions and suggested answers for formal applicant interviews even though they’re supposed to be kept secret.

After learning of this from the newspaper, Fire Chief Daryl Osby asked the county auditor-controller to investigate.

Osby said a preliminary review determined that employees were “sharing” the questions.

“That’s not appropriate,” Osby said. He said those questions would no longer be used and he would work “to make sure we have transparent and objective processes.”

A starting salary for firefighter academy graduates is about $61,000 a year, with the potential of earning thousands more in overtime. Firefighters work 10 days a month in 24-hour rotations and payroll records show that within a few years they can make more than $100,000 annually. And when they retire, often in their 50s, firefighters receive pension and health benefits that average more than $130,000 a year.

The newspaper outlined the case of firefighter Ryan Tripp, who was one of 10 firefighters in a 2010 academy class where relatives made up a quarter of the recruits.

Tripp’s father is John Tripp, then the department’s head of emergency operations. Tripp failed 13 of 14 quizzes on emergency medical treatment, and John Tripp was alerted of his son’s problems by Assistant Chief Anthony Whittle. He later informed the father that his son would need to score a minimum of 83 on a cumulative exam to graduate. The son did so, according to records examined by the newspaper.

John Tripp said it was appropriate to be kept informed of his son’s troubles because he had oversight responsibility for firefighter training.

He said he never intervened and was prepared to see his son fired if he didn’t improve.

Within two years of graduating, Ryan Tripp was making $111,137 in salary, overtime and other compensation. He did not respond to requests for comment.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, https://www.latimes.com


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