A potential criminal investigation could be looming over LA Metro CEO Phil Washington, Chief Operations Officer Jim Gallagher, Systems Security and Law Enforcement former Interim Chief and current Executive Officer Aston Greene, as well as other high level executives at the agency, if it is discovered that employees, including drivers of LA Metro buses, were never informed the N95 masks they were issued as PPE back in April of 2020, were counterfeit and offered no protection from the COVID19 virus.
To date, there have been 378 cases and 3 deaths related to COVID19 at LA Metro since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 97 drivers tested positive with two drivers dying due to complications from COVID19.
CAUSE FOR COVID PANIC
The first red flag raised regarding L.A. Metro’s disregard for public safety was reported early in the pandemic after a driver at the Carson station tested positive for the Coronavirus. The positive diagnosis sent city officials immediately into a tail spin.
On Thursday April 2nd, Carson City Council “urged” L.A. Metro to suspend all bus service in the County fearing a potential super spreader could occur among the 100,000 residents and beyond. Mayor Albert Robles outraged at the lack of action and accountability from L.A. Metro executives released this statement:
“Churches are essential, but they’ve been closed down. Many other businesses that provide essential services have been closed down. Have done the responsible thing. But for L.A. Metro to not be responsible, not care about their own employees, not care about the passengers, not care about the community at-large and immediately suspend their operations is just irresponsible.”
COUNTERFEIT COVID PROTECTION
In May, an employee of L.A. Metro discovered the N95 masks, specifically model DTC3X that were issued to employees in the beginning of April, at approximately the same time the first driver tested positive for the Coronavirus.
On May 8th, 2020, a L.A. Metro Signal Inspector concerned for the safety of employees and the general public using Metro services, contacted Collins Kalu, L.A. Metro’s Sr. Director Safety Certifications and Operations Manager, inquiring about the follow-up – or lack thereof – regarding the notification to agency officials counterfeit masks were distributed more than a month previously and employees were still wearing the masks unaware they provided little, if any protection.
Kalu responded to the Signal Inspector that the counterfeit masks, (although the model number was transposed in his email incorrectly) was “under further investigation”, however, after 97 confirmed infections and two COVID related deaths of bus operators, it appears no notification has been made to employees about the counterfeit masks that were in distribution.
Union representatives were contacted, seemingly unaware and/or not willing to comment on counterfeit masks distributed at LA Metro to employees.
Further investigation also showed no mention or warnings regarding the counterfeit PPE were sent by the union.
Even more alarming is the email I received from L.A. Metro’s PR Department, Joni Honor categorically denying the existence of the counterfeit masks and in anticipation of the release of this article, a follow up notice implying the masks were never in existence went out to Metro employees this morning.
The email below sent to L.A. Metro employees (after my media inquiry) denying the masks were distributed.
PUBLIC SAFETY IN PERIL
Ironically, at the time the counterfeit masks were being distributed and used by L.A. Metro employees, CEO Phil Washington was put in charge of the COVID response task for all public transportation by APTA for all of Public Transportation in the country by APTA Chairman Nuria I. Fernandez General Manager and CEO Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, CA and APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. Upon his appointment Washington said “In developing this industry-wide commitments program, we are working to build back public confidence in riding transit by increasing sanitation practices, requiring masks for all customers and operators and working around the clock to keep our frontline essential employees healthy.”
Even though the list of accusations of public corruption and negligence against Washington is long, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has gone on record to say he is “the best manager she has ever seen.”
However, when Kuehl and the other members of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, who oversees L.A. Metro, were contacted about the counterfeit masks, they received and read, but did not reply to inquiries.
A complaint was filed in the last few days to the Office of Inspector General at LA Metro who is now investigating L.A. Metro’s role in the cover-up of distributing counterfeit PPE and potentially contributing the death of at least two drivers.
SOUNDING THE EOC ALARM
LA County has lived through not one, but two States of Emergency since the beginning of the pandemic with the Board of Supervisors making some very alarming decisions regarding public safety.
Just days into the lockdown, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to give CEO Sachi Hamai control over the Emergency Operations. This calculated power grab by the board was meant to alienate and discredit Sheriff Alex Villanueva who has been target of continuous attacks by the B.O.S. and Civilian Oversight Committee Chairman Patti Giggans, since he took office in January, 2019. The move was rationalized by the Board based on an “audit” after the devastating Woolsey Fire and the apparent “lack of coordination” between agencies, which at the time was under the command of former Sheriff Jim McDonnell. “This radical gutting of the Emergency Code is irresponsible,” Sheriff Villanueva said “The pattern is very clear – when you’re in trouble, you will build more bureaucracy.”
The audit’s recommendation, which was bought and paid for by the Board of Supervisors (to fit their agenda) was that the emergency center be placed under the leadership of the county CEO who, conveniently reports directly to the Board of Supervisors – and would give little to no oversight from the Sheriff. “This is about who can coordinate the best – it’s not correct for this to go under just law enforcement,” said Supervisor Kuehl which has now allowed a pattern of corruption in the public safety sector to rise to dangerous levels not seen before.
As more whistleblowers come forward providing significant evidence of criminal negligence with regard to the health and safety of the county employees and the public at large, the removal of Sheriff Villanueva as the head of Emergency Operations could prove to be a fatal mistake by the ongoing mismanagement of Public Safety by the LA County Board of Supervisors.
Now the responsibility of L.A. Metro executives to notify employees of faulty PPE and rectify the issue, could be the subject of a criminal manslaughter investigation if proven the counterfeit masks did not protect the drivers who died from COVID related illness.
This is a developing story.