LAFD chief deputy allegedly drunk during a major fire gets no discipline, $1.4-million payout

Last spring, a high-ranking official in the Los Angeles Fire Department alleged that its top administrative commander, Chief Deputy Fred Mathis, appeared to be intoxicated while he was overseeing the agency’s operations center during the Palisades fire.

The officer reported that Mathis admitted to her that he had been drinking, according to LAFD records.

A private law firm hired by the city to investigate the May 18 episode found that Mathis was likely intoxicated at the department’s headquarters at City Hall East.

But the investigation cleared Mathis through a rationale that has outraged department insiders: The law firm concluded Mathis “was technically off duty while he was likely intoxicated as he had put himself out sick” that day, according to a summary of the findings the department provided The Times. The newspaper reported in July that an entry was made in Mathis’ timekeeping record four days after the incident to show he was on sick leave the day he was reported to be drunk on duty.

Because he retired within days of the investigation’s conclusion in late January, Mathis, whose salary was more than $350,000 a year, could not have been disciplined. He left the department with a roughly $1.4-million payout, on top of his annual pension of about $225,000, according to the city.




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