Several critiques of Mayor Eric Garcetti and his office were softened or removed from the final draft of a Los Angeles emergency response report on the COVID-19 crisis, a Times analysis shows.
The 220-page final report, prepared for the city by an outside company at a cost of $150,000, found that there was never a formal discussion about who was in charge of the emergency operation, a misstep that led to a breakdown in coordination and communications. between city services. The earlier draft of the report came to the same conclusion.
At the same time, both reports praise Garcetti, who “has acted swiftly and decisively on many fronts, often with innovative initiatives to help protect the city and its people.” The response from city officials was described as “quick” and “sincere”.
But the final report removes several criticisms mentioned in the draft, and in some cases scraps sentences that were unflattering to the mayor’s office.
For example, the final report removed a reference to how several department leaders who attended Garcetti’s weekly “cabinet” meetings told investigators that the meetings “often felt more like dictations than discussions.”
Similarly, a sentence was removed noting that there were complaints from Emergency Management or EMD staff about their work duties being “politically driven”.
The Emergency Operations Activation After-Action Report was made public last week and approved by: the city’s Emergency Operations Board. The council forwarded the report to the city council without discussion.
The city has CPARS Consulting Inc. hired to assess the city’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for the next catastrophe. According to the report, researchers conducted 31 group interview sessions with 153 city employees and representatives from partner agencies.
The Times reviewed the non-public draft report last year, which contained errors, an EHR spokesperson said at the time. Nick Lowe, president and chief executive of CPARS Consulting, said last year that the final version was completed and that the company “stands by the integrity of each iteration of the report as they were drafted.”
The period of the evaluation covered January 2020 to April 2021 and focused only on the city’s emergency management system, which includes the “structures to support and enable field operations, programs and service”.
For example, the report did not focus on the city’s vaccination efforts.
In the final report, “mayor’s office” is deleted or changed in a number of cases. In one case, the draft report said the EMD and its mission were “misunderstood by other departments, especially the mayor’s office.” The final report said other “city offices, departments, agencies and bureaus” misunderstood the EMD.
Similarly, the draft report said that “mayor’s office staff said they saw EMD as bogged down by process and bureaucracy, slow to respond and lacking creative solutions.” The final report simply stated that “many in senior positions” viewed EMD that way.
In a number of cases, paragraphs have been added to the final report that counter the criticism in the earlier draft.
Both reports note that the EMD said the mayor himself was not as involved as his predecessors in emergency preparedness.
The final version added that “this was not a sentiment shared by the mayor’s office, who felt that the mayor had been sufficiently involved in emergency preparedness, taking into account the other demands of his position and that there were many had happened inside the mayor’s office.”
“Perhaps the limited view of the mayor’s efforts to prepare for emergencies has affected the perspective of EMD,” the final report said.
Lowe, of CPARS Consulting, said little had changed in the final report regarding the “findings and substantive analysis.”
He acknowledged that the language had been watered down in parts of the final version and called the development of such reports a “balancing act.”
“You want the language to be direct and capture the gravity of the situation and also be strong enough to grab the attention of the right people responsible for driving change,” Lowe said. “We don’t want these reviews to be swept under the rug. At the same time, the findings must be communicated in such a way that those in positions to effect change are still receptive to the report’s findings and motivated to take action.”
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In total, according to The Times’ analysis of both drafts, more than 1,300 changes were made to the draft reports, many of which were minor changes.
Lowe said requests for edits had been made to him by the mayor’s office and other departments and agencies. “CPARS then autonomously assessed each request on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Harrison Wollman, a spokesman for Garcetti, said the mayor has made the decision to act decisively at the start of the pandemic.
“He chose to make Los Angeles one of the first cities in America to offer free testing, require masking and establish mega-vaccination sites,” Wollman said. “Every crisis is an opportunity to learn lessons for the future, and the mayor knows that this experience has prepared the city for future emergencies.”