COVID-19

Union Alleges that Emails Show LA Commissioner Used Influence to Win $3 Million COVID Contract

Written by Vincent Cain

A Los Angeles fire and police pensions commissioner is accused of an ethics violation by a law enforcement union over a $3 million contract for testing unvaccinated city employees for COVID-19. The commissioner has been lobbying Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office for almost a year on behalf of the company, emails acquired by the Southern California News Group have revealed.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League is suing the city and ordering an investigation, claiming that the testing contractor,  PPS Health Incorporated, which was doing business as Bluestone Safe, is partly owned by Dr. Pedram Salimpour. Dr. Pedram Salimpour was reappointed by Garcetti to the pension commission in 2017.

Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the union, said, “Did commissioner Salimpour mislead his commissioner-colleagues and the professional staff as to just how involved he was and how much he stood to gain with this taxpayer-funded contract? We all deserve answers.”

The union’s lawsuit aims to stop the city from requiring unvaccinated employees to pay for their COVID tests through payroll deductions at $65 per test. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for December 8.

The Los Angeles Personnel Department vetted seven vendors with vaccine and testing tracking services before it awarded the no-bid, emergency contract to Bluestone to test city employees. No vendors were identified except Bluestone.

 Bruce Whidden, a spokesman for the Personnel Department, said in an email that Bluestone was the only company that offered a variety of services at a competitive rate.

The Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions said that last month Salimpour was “not engaged nor part of the review and vetting process” for the Bluestone contract.

“The public deserves to know why the pension commission released an official statement that downplayed commissioner Salimpour’s ownership and management control of Bluestone, as well as stating that Salimpour was not engaged and had no role in the process to gain the contract,” Saggau said. “Why would a city entity defend the profit-focused actions of an individual?”

Bluestone has since put out a statement saying that it has done nothing wrong. A  spokesperson for the company said, “The allegations made by Los Angeles Police Protective League are simply false.”

Photo Cred: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images