After the latest spate of stories about Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, we’ve come to expect hypocrisy and an agenda that has nothing to do with public health. Back in May 2020 RedState exposed Ferrer’s social justice agenda, then two weeks ago Jennifer O’Connell published leaked audio in which Ferrer admitted that her focus was labor unions and that she was using public health orders to “protect the workers.” In one clip Ferrer said:
“I think we really need to respect our labor unions and our workers in being able to negotiate what creates safety for them as well. We need them to be safe, and we need them to feel comfortable doing what are very hard jobs.”
“We’ve used health officer orders to try to, like, get around sort of the sort of lack of, you know, what I’d say, strong worker protections. But even right now we have to continue to like, sort of figure out — in the absence of having a strong national, or strong state response, how are we going to protect our workers.”
So it should shock no one to learn that while Ferrer is all about caring for labor unions, their ability to negotiate, and protecting “our workers,” when it comes to her own front-line workers she doesn’t give a damn about their safety and has used the State of Emergency declaration as a weapon against those who aren’t down with her agenda. You know, the people who want a public health department to do what it’s designed to do.
According to a whistleblower who spoke to RedState on condition of anonymity, Ferrer has set up the Environmental Health division as her personal enforcement army, charged with issuing as many COVID violations as possible, with no warning and regardless of intentionality, to fill the coffers with revenue from fines; sent inspectors out during the “two weeks to slow the spread” time period with no PPE, leading to employee deaths; forced night/weekend/holiday overtime for the plebes while never working those extended hours themselves; and refused to grant leave to employees on COVID quarantine. Due to the provisions of the State of Emergency, the workers are left with no redress.
In short, while Ferrer expects private businesses to abide by her “health order” diktats regarding providing PPE, shutting down entire industries, and providing employees with paid time off to quarantine, she refused to do any of that in her own department.
Environmental Health is led by Deputy Liza Frias, her Assistant Deputy Brenda Lopez, and the Chief Communications Officer, Carl Kemp. Yes, the Carl Kemp we wrote about Monday, who is a felon convicted of tax fraud for failing to report $750,000 in “lobbying” income received from clients like drug kingpin John Walker. (Walker paid Kemp and a few other Long Beach insiders thousands of dollars a month in exchange for receiving favorable treatment from Long Beach authorities at a time when marijuana collectives who didn’t have such well-connected lobbyists were being raided by the Long Beach PD.)
As RedState’s Bob Hoge reported last week, the Environmental Health Division is already offering training for employee “volunteers” who will plan to work overtime this coming weekend to enforce a renewed mask mandate. About that, our whistleblower says:
With the impending return of the mask mandate, the department has sent out an email asking for “volunteers” for the overtime shift. Make no mistake, the department has always justified forced schedule change by saying that they did not get enough volunteers. Even if they meet the required numbers, they would just move the goal post so “enough” volunteers are never really reached. They do not care about facts or data outside of their agenda.
Employees department-wide are hoping that the county will rescind the declaration as soon as possible so the perverse incentives driving DPH’s direction are removed, and so employees’ schedules and job duties aren’t subject to the whims of Frias and Ferrer. Career DPH employees are terrified of the retaliation and potential blackballing because “the current people at the top are vindictive and cruel,” and that Frias is “extremely retaliatory” but many more are coming forward to RedState and other outlets. As this latest whistleblower says:
The extent of the crimes, harm, and tyranny that this department has committed in the past years are shameful and need to be brought into the light.
Here are just a few ways Ferrer and Frias have used the pandemic and State of Emergency to abuse and harass her workers, many of whom do belong to a union.
Sent Inspectors Out at Height of Pandemic Without PPE, Spreading Disease
A State of Emergency due to COVID was issued in Los Angeles County on March 4, 2020, and on March 16 DPH suspended fieldwork to protect its workers and the public. But due to Ferrer flubbing an interview and refusing to issue a clarification, inspectors were sent back into the field within the “two weeks to slow the spread” time frame, without PPE, with deadly results. The whistleblower states:
LA County made its first split from the norm on March 26, 2020 by sending their inspectors back in the field without PPEs to restart regular inspections. Why did LA County decided to be the only county to resume field inspections? This is because a few days before, in an interview Barbara falsely stated that the inspectors are still in the field. Instead of issuing a correction for her mistake, the department went ahead and endangered the lives of its inspectors by sending them in the field to resume regular inspections.
To reiterate, this is at the beginning of the pandemic with mass shutdowns, no PPEs, and data on the virus largely unknown. Our inspectors refused out of safety concern since no PPEs were given by the health department and points were raised of inspectors’ potential role in spreading the virus since they have to go from business to business and interact with the public indoor with no PPEs and when social distancing is being preached. This type of extended close and prolonged interactions without PPEs and visitation from one indoor space to another is the last thing you want unless you wish to spread the virus.
Ferrer’s statement led to the endangerment of her staff and the deaths of some department employees for being forced to be in the field. If LA County had stayed in line with the rest of the counties, lives of their own employees could have been saved.
This FAQ handout tells Environmental Health inspectors that they do not have access to PPE.
Those inspectors who refused to go out and possibly spread COVID — who are certified as Registered Environmental Health Specialists — were threatened with retaliation. All because the “leader” couldn’t bear to admit making a mistake.
Uses Emergency Declaration to Exploit Workers
Using the Emergency declaration as justification, Ferrer’s Environmental Health Division expanded the hours of operation so COVID compliance officers can be out issuing citations and levying fines seven days a week, even until 11 PM Wednesday through Sunday, without having to pay them overtime. Two shifts were implemented: 7 AM through 5:30 PM Sunday through Wednesday, or 12:30-11 PM Wednesday through Saturday, and staff who were going to be forced to work the weekend and evening schedule were informed just before Thanksgiving break.
Workers attempted to use the “meet and confer” clause in their contract to object to the forced schedule change, but due to the Emergency declaration, the whistleblower reports, “any negotiations or checks are bypassed because we are in an “emergency” and therefore they can do so.” That’s backed up by the Memorandum of Understanding. In general, DPH can’t change the work week hours of operation to avoid paying OT:
Pursuant to Fair Labor Standards Act regulations once established the work week may not be changed indiscriminately to avoid payment of overtime.
However, all of those protections are out the window when there’s an “emergency.”
Nothing herein shall be construed to limit the authority of Management to make temporary assignments to different or additional locations, shifts, or work duties for the purpose of meeting emergencies. However, such emergency assignments shall not extend beyond the period of such emergency.
Of course, management didn’t have to take part in the new hours of operation schedule, and rescinding the State of Emergency would remove Ferrer and Frias’s ability to threaten inspectors:
Management were not affected by this schedule and continued to enjoy their holidays, evenings and weekends. Talk about leadership. This forced schedule is key in forcing inspectors to “volunteer” in doing visits for Barbara’s mandates since inspectors are implicitly threatened to either comply or be forced to do so at the expense of their weekends and evenings. The removal of the state of emergency will affect the pool of inspectors that Liza and Barbara could tapped into or even make the declaration of mandates without check difficult altogether.
COVID emergency dollars and COVID mandate violation citations are used to fill DPH’s coffers
This scheme is even worse than CHP speed traps. In the whistleblower’s words:
None in the lower branches want to visit, cite, and close businesses over Barbara’s mandates. This is not the duties that they signed up for and the majority thinks that this is a money making scheme to get money from the COVID Emergency Fund. As long as mandates are existing or keeps returning, the upper management will have local offices and inspectors visit businesses for compliance. Each visit inspectors make gets billed to the COVID Emergency Fund and the issuance of citation is another revenue.
If there is no funding or money to gain, there is no gain for Environmental Health to visit businesses for mask mandates and be fixated on COVID. We do not know where the money from these visits are going as it sure does not go to the people in the field. We doubt that it goes to court appeals.
According to the chat from an All-Staff meeting, employees questioned the tactic of immediately citing businesses instead of educating them on how to comply first, and one asked, “Where is the compassion from management for struggling business owners and overworked inspectors?” There is no date for this meeting, but the chat also reveals that as of that time over $800,000 in citations had been issued.
And, that management claims the revenue gained through citations is going to the appeals hearing process.
However, it appears that the COVID fund could have been billed fraudulently:
It’s interesting that there were not a lot of mandate complaints at night so inspectors ended up doing their regular night restaurants/bars/clubs inspections during the shift, which should have been paid overtime.
Each visit inspectors make gets billed to the COVID Emergency Fund and the issuance of citation is another revenue.
What a great grift.
Deputy Frias is fixated on providing Ferrer with numbers of violations, not Environmental Health
Since the pandemic has provided Ferrrer with unending adulation from the media and progressive politicians and has provided DPH with a seemingly bottomless pile of COVID emergency funding, deputies in the department are ingratiating themselves to Ferrer by giving her what she wants, even if it’s unscientific or unethical:
The pandemic changed [our normal] duties to enforcing mandates from Barbara Ferrer including investigations, citations and closures of businesses that knowingly or unknowingly violated the health officer order.
As long as mandates are existing or keeps returning, the upper management will have local offices and inspectors visit businesses for compliance.
The upper echelons of this department are more concerned about pleasing Barbara by feeding her the data she wants (How many facilities were found non-compliant, how many were visited, what mandate citations issued). These are gathered by field visits and inspectors have been forced to follow these orders under threat and fear of retaliation.
No time off for COVID quarantine
In December 2020, a time when LA County and California officials were forcing private businesses to offer paid time off for employees to quarantine when they were exposed to COVID or had tested positive, DPH was forcing their employees who were in quarantine into telework.
DPH is using unqualified inspectors to conduct outbreak investigations
The whistleblower also claims that environmental health inspectors are conducting outbreak investigations instead of the public health investigators and nurses who are trained and educated for this.
“The environmental health inspectors are not epidemiologists, and identifying workplace safety concerns are more of Cal/OSHA’s duties. It is a big jump from inspecting say restaurants to investigating outbreaks and giving preventative measures… this is not the training and job these health inspectors signed up for.”
Gyms and churches are exempt from proposed mask mandate – because they fought back
As it turns out, the resistance shown by gym owners and churches (one of whom sued LA County and won) over mask mandates made an impression. According to the whistleblower:
The upcoming indoor masking exempts gyms and do not mention churches because the department knows that they cannot be bullied to submission.
Environmental Health’s regular work has suffered greatly due to COVID mandate focus
Since the department has been conducting the COVID protocol enforcement actions, other inspections have fallen behind:
The department has fallen behind regular inspections because of enforcing these mandates. Making sure that restaurants, apartments, school lunches, swimming pools, lead prevention, etc. is critical and more in line to protecting public health than checking businesses if they are wearing masks.
Convicted felon Carl Kemp
As reported Monday, Carl Kemp’s hiring was announced by Ferrer herself on September 3, 2019 in a letter to all staff. There is little known about his hiring, though, or what he actually does, but it’s clear that he’s part of the untouchable class, according to the whistleblower.
The position was previously held by Natalie Jimenez who transferred to become the Director of Public Affairs when Kemp joined. His appointment raised some eyebrows given the articles found about him from a quick Google search.
He is listed on the same table as Lisa and Brenda so we know he is important. There is a lack of fingerprint on his work since his hiring….
The bottom line, according to the whistleblower:
This is no longer about public safety. That ship has long passed. This is about a director who is pursuing her agenda and a department that is also enriching itself by tapping into the COVID Emergency Fund by creating mandates and doing field visits to check those mandates. This is a lucrative business model and must be exposed in the media. They have lost the trust of the people under them and are ruling by fear.
Given the cascade of information regarding malfeasance within the Los Angeles Department of Public Health under Barbara Ferrer, it’s time for the Board of Supervisors to conduct a full investigation into this at-will employee’s actions.