Wednesday, October 5, 2011

City Charter Bars Discipline For Accused Firefighters

Recently, Los Angeles City firefighters have been under investigation for allegedly permitting filmmakers to use an engine as the backdrop for a short film.  However, the alleged violations occurred more than two years ago.  In Los Angeles, that means the firefighters cannot be subjected to discipline because of important protections in the City Charter.  The Los Angeles City Charter provides that "charges must be filed within one year of the department’s discovery of the act committed or omitted by a member and in no event later than two years from the date of the act or omission."  (Los Angeles City Charter, art. X, section 1060(a) (emphasis added).)

The Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act, like POBR, has a one-year limitation period with several exceptions.  Most prominently, the one-year period does not begin until a Department discovers the alleged misconduct.  The two-year limit in Los Angeles, however, does not contain these exceptions.  As a result, firefighters there cannot suffer discipline for alleged misconduct that was not serious enough to raise attention at the time and they do not have to reconstruct long-forgotten details and evidence in order to defend themselves.