By Laura J. Nelson, October 16, 2013
Los Angeles transportation department employees, including engineers and
maintenance staff, packed City Hall to protest management policies.
More than 250 Los Angeles city transportation employees packed the
City Council chambers Wednesday to complain about management practices
they said have left the department's morale at "an all-time low."
Since general manager Jaime de la Vega was hired in 2011,
high-ranking supervisors said, he has reshuffled senior staff, left key
positions vacant and ignored the concerns of employees, adding to the
department's workload and stress levels.
"The rank and file have lost confidence in our general manager," said
Michael Hunt, a transportation engineer and a union steward. "He
doesn't listen to us. He ridicules us at every chance he gets."
Wednesday's criticisms marked
the first time since Mayor Eric Garetti's inauguration that the unions
have publicly tried to influence whether a manager will be rehired.
When Garcetti took office, he asked the city's top managers to
reapply for their jobs. At least seven department heads have been told
they can stay. But the top executive at the Port of Los Angeles will retire at the end of the year and the Los Angeles Fire Department's chief will be replaced. De la Vega doesn't know if he will stay, he said.
Senior transportation engineer Brian Gallagher said the three
district offices he supervises do not have enough employees to answer
the phones every day. Since 2010, he said, the response time for local
requests like speed bumps and stop signs has more than tripled, from 1.5
months to 4.8 months.
"I'm here today to let you know that the emperor has no clothes,"
Gallagher said. Audience members, some in construction vests, others in
The biggest staff reductions happened before he started as general
manager, De la Vega said in a telephone interview later. He said he has
doubled the staff in district offices since 2011, but the number of
workers still isn't back to previous levels.
Promotions and hirings are in the works, De la Vega said. He said he
will also be making other appointments, including interim positions.
"Mayor Garcetti, I hope you're listening," Hunt said to the council.
"We want to support you... Work with us. Come talk with us. We want to