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Panel Urged to Uphold Dismissal : Hearing: Paul Koehler is accused of misusing his authority during 3 1/2 years as the head of Glendale's building maintenance section.

November 29, 1990|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Before he was fired, a Glendale maintenance superintendent stole city property, forced workers to do his personal chores and allowed a supervisor to "terrorize" her employees, a city official asserted at a hearing for the superintendent.

Dennis H. Schuck, senior deputy city attorney, told the hearing by the Glendale Civil Service Commission last week that Paul Koehler misused his authority during 3 1/2 years as head of the building maintenance section. He urged the commission to uphold Koehler's firing.

"He engaged in a concerted and systematic method of management that permitted him to routinely use city personnel, time and resources for his personal gain," Schuck said.

Koehler, who oversaw custodial services and repairs in city-owned buildings, was placed on a paid leave of absence in July when city officials began investigating the alleged misconduct. He was fired Oct. 3 from his $64,000-per-year post but appealed to the Civil Service Commission for reinstatement.

In his opening remarks, Schuck said he would show that workers in Koehler's department were routinely ordered to transport their supervisors to medical appointments, take their dogs to veterinarians or do errands. He said he would show that Koehler took home a 500-pound safe, workbench and tools, all belonging to the city.

Koehler's attorney, David A. Cordier, said in an interview, "Paul Koehler may have made a couple of bad judgments, but poor judgment on minimal issues does not justify termination."

Glendale Personnel Director Jack Hoffman said Koehler is one of the highest ranking city employees to appeal a termination in recent years. Although most city workers choose private hearings, Koehler has asked that his appeal be public.

Cordier said he and his client decided on open hearings because "the innuendo that has surrounded this case is far worse than the fact."

The hearings are expected to continue through March or April. Schuck said he may summon more than 20 people to testify, and Cordier has listed more than 50 potential witnesses.

Senior building repairman Richard Lewis testified last week for three hours regarding alleged abuses by his supervisors. Lewis said he drew on notes he began keeping in 1987.

Lewis said in April, 1988, Koehler told a city employee to make a new dashboard for Koehler's boat on city time. On another occasion, Koehler brought a broken barbecue to work and asked a city employee to repair it, Lewis said. Lewis also said he was sent by Koehler on personal errands to lumber and roofing businesses.

The city worker also complained about abusive management tactics by his immediate supervisor, Gloria Carey, who reported to Koehler. She retired earlier this year.

Cordier questioned Lewis' credibility.

"The evidence is going to show that he is bitter about a number of things," Cordier said. "He may not have made the notes when he said he did. He has filled in a few facts with a lot of speculation."

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