In May, as the Los Angeles Fire Department was battling the Palisades blaze, Chief Ralph Terrazas received a report that his top administrative commander appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on duty at the agency’s headquarters, where he was overseeing its operations center, The Times has learned.
LAFD rules require agency officials to deal promptly with employees suspected of being under the influence, but records and interviews show that the complaint about Chief Deputy Fred Mathis’ condition was not filed for three days, a delay the department has not explained.
The complaint says that Mathis admitted he had been drinking. Terrazas did not respond to a Times question asking whether Mathis was ordered to submit a urine sample for testing, as required under LAFD rules.
In the meantime, a retroactive entry was logged into the city’s timekeeping system days later to show that Mathis was out sick the same day a colleague reported that the chief deputy was intoxicated on the job at the department’s downtown office at City Hall East, interviews and a record obtained by The Times show.
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