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Firing of 26 City Workers Urged in Drug Probe

March 30, 1989|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — After an extensive investigation at the city maintenance yard, supervisors in the city Water and Power Department have recommended the firing of 26 employees and the suspension of seven others for drug use or theft.

Deputy City Manager Edward Aghjayan said the Police Department has begun an investigation to determine if any criminal charges should be sought. In addition, he said, the city attorney has been asked to prepare a report on the scope of the city's authority to require employees to submit to random drug tests.

Aghjayan said the water and power employees, who were notified at the end of last week of the proposed firings and suspensions, will have five days to examine the evidence and ask for conferences with the department's general manager, David Plumb, who can modify, affirm or drop the recommended penalties.

The city put 41 of the Water and Power Department's 280 workers on paid leave after interviewing them at the conclusion of a drug investigation that began last year.

Six Cleared

Aghjayan said six of the 41 employees did not violate city policies and will return to work. In addition, supervisors have recommended a salary demotion for one worker and a five-day suspension for another worker for actions unrelated to drugs.

Seven employees whose infractions involved drugs were given proposed suspensions ranging from five to 20 days and were told that they can return to work only if they agree to random drug testing.

Aghjayan said the drug investigation led to the discovery that some employees had taken items belonging to the city, such as copper wire and tools, but the loss "was in the hundreds of dollars rather than thousands." And, he said, there was also an incident in which employees participated in a theft of private property.

Aghjayan emphasized that employees were not operating a theft ring out of the maintenance yard, nor were they selling drugs to the public. But, he charged that employees were using cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines and alcohol on the job and said that three employees are accused of selling cocaine to other workers on city property.

The investigation began last summer when one employee complained that he had a substance abuse problem and indicated that others did, too. At the same time, Aghjayan said, there were other signs and rumors of drug abuse.

Investigators Hired

On the recommendation of the Police Department, he said, the city hired Confidential Management Services Inc. of San Dimas to investigate.

"Our major concern was getting the problem out of the workplace," Aghjayan said. "We were concerned about safety of the work force and service to the public."

At the conclusion of the investigation, he said, employee interviews began, and the number or people involved grew. "A lot of people were coming clean," he said.

Aghjayan said the city does not have a drug testing program now, but noted that a U.S. Supreme Court decision last week appears to permit drug testing of employees whose work can affect public safety. He said the city attorney has been asked to compile a list of job categories in which drug testing could be required.

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