Garden Grove Disputes Claims That Fire Department Falsified Inspection Reports

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In a statement released over the Labor Day weekend, Garden Grove officials rebuffed recent media reports that the city’s fire department falsified reports that it had conducted hazardous materials inspections in 2012, prior to a county Health Care Agency audit.

According to the city press release, the findings of a recent investigation conducted by the County Health Care Agency into the fire department calls for re-inspections to “correct inconsistencies” but “do not indicate deliberate misrepresentation on the part of the City as implied in previous newspaper statements made by former members of the Garden Grove Fire Department.”

Former department Capt. Dennis Standrod, also the fire union president at the time, told The Orange County Register in July that in this 32 years at the department, he had “never seen a hazmat inspection done by firefighters” and “everyone above the rank of captain knew in 2012 that hazmat inspections were not done during the fire safety inspections.”

“Everyone would know that,” Standrod said. “If anyone said they mistook that, that would be a blatant lie.”

City Manager Matthew Fertal responded in the press release that Standrod’s statements were part of efforts to “undermine and embarrass the City.”

“I hope these findings put to rest all these ill-intended allegations of intentional wrongdoing by the City, and confirms the genuine integrity of the Fire Department that has been so strongly supported by the community,” said Fertal.

According to the city’s statement:

Utilizing Fire Department records, files, and personnel interviews, the report concluded that from the end of 2011, through the County’s evaluation of procedures on March 26, 2013, the Fire Department conducted mandated Fire, Life, Safety Inspections for regulated businesses; however, hazardous materials inspections could not be verified as a component of each of these inspections, or performed to compliance standards. Due to the Agency’s uncertainty, the Fire Department was directed by the Health Agency to conduct re-inspections, currently being undertaken.

Questions relating to the Fire Department’s hazardous materials program were first identified by the County in April 2013 and were corrected by the Fire Department within the specified timelines. As a result, the Fire Department received an official letter of compliance from the Health Care Agency in April 2014.

The press release does not provide detail of the Health Care Agency’s findings, but says all inspections will be complete by February 2015.

The fire department has been under scrutiny since last year, when the son of Mayor Bruce Broadwater was hired as a firefigher. In June, the fire union voted unanimously to give Fire Chief Dave Barlag a vote of no confidence, citing hiring and management practices.

After the vote of no confidence, the city manager authorized an independent probe into the department. That investigation is ongoing. 

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