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Officials want to track L.A. building inspectors on GPS

After two city inspectors were arrested on suspicion of taking bribes, the agency recommends steps to tighten supervision and efficiency. One proposal is activating the GPS devices in their laptops.

April 13, 2011|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times

Days after two city inspectors were arrested on suspicion of taking bribes, officials at the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety called Tuesday for the agency to electronically track the whereabouts of its employees.

Building and Safety spokesman David Lara said his department sent a series of recommendations to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, including a move to activate the GPS tracking devices contained within each inspector's cellphone and laptop computer.

"For us, it's mostly about making sure our inspectors are where they're supposed to be," Lara said. "With the latest turn of events, it's too bad that we've had to take that type of measure. But we feel in the long run it would provide better control for our supervisors."

In affidavits filed last week, the FBI said Hugo Joel Gonzalez, 49, of Eagle Rock and Raoul Joseph Germain, 59, of Altadena were caught on video taking bribes in exchange for the approval of construction work. In some instances no inspections were conducted, the FBI said.

The arrests followed a sting operation involving a confidential informant in South Los Angeles, the area where the two inspectors worked. That informant spoke of paying as many as 40 bribes to inspectors, as well as providing building materials, free labor and, in one case, a vacation, according to affidavits.

Lara said GPS technology also would ensure that inspectors showed up for their appointments on time. "It's not just to be Big Brother. We want to have effective tools to make sure not only that we have better control of where our staff is, but so we can create efficiencies in communication and time."

Johnny Yutronich, a senior electrical inspector and president of the Municipal Construction Inspectors Assn., said the city would be required to confer with the union before proceeding with the proposal. He declined to comment further.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Times staff writer Abby Sewell contributed to this report.

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