Final report on LA’s emergency response to COVID-19 softens Garcetti’s criticism | National

LOS ANGELES — Several criticisms of Mayor Eric Garcetti and his office were toned down or deleted from the final version of a report on Los Angeles’ emergency response to the COVID-19 crisis, according to an LA Times analysis.

The 220-page final report, produced for the city by an outside firm at a cost of $150,000, revealed 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 communication. between municipal services. The first draft of the report came to the same conclusion.

At the same time, both reports praise Garcetti, who “acted quickly and decisively on many fronts, often with innovative initiatives to help protect the city and its people.” The response from City employees was described as “quick” and “heartfelt.”

But the final report raises several criticisms mentioned in the project, in some cases deleting sentences that were not flattering for the town hall.

For example, a reference to the final report was removed from how several department heads who attended Garcetti’s weekly “cabinet” meetings told researchers that the meetings “often felt more like dictations than discussions. “.

Similarly, a sentence noting that there were complaints from Emergency Management Department, or EMD, personnel about their “politically motivated” job duties was removed.

The after-action report of the emergency operations activation was released last week and approved by the city’s emergency operations board. Council forwarded the report to City Council without discussion.

The city has engaged CPARS Consulting Inc. to review the city’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help prepare for the next disaster. Researchers conducted 31 focus group interview sessions with 153 city staff and representatives from partner agencies, according to the report.

Last year, the LA Times reviewed the non-public draft report, which contained errors, an EMD spokesperson said at the time. Nick Lowe, president and CEO of CPARS Consulting, said last year that the final version was nearing completion and that the company “supported the integrity of each iteration of the report as it was written”.

The period of the review covered January 2020 to April 2021 and focused solely on the city’s emergency management system, which includes the “structures in place to support and enable field operations, programs and services. “.

The report did not focus on the city’s vaccination efforts, for example.

In the final report, the “mayor’s office” is deleted or modified in several cases. In one instance, the draft report said the EMD and its mission were “misunderstood by other departments, particularly the mayor’s office.” The final report said other “offices, departments, agencies, and city offices” misunderstood the EMD.

Similarly, the draft report states that “staff in the mayor’s office said they viewed EMD as bogged down in process and bureaucracy, slow to respond, and lacking in creative solutions.” The final report simply stated that “many people in leadership positions” viewed EMD that way.

In several cases, paragraphs were added to the final report to counter criticisms made in the previous 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 “it was not a sentiment shared by the mayor’s office who felt that the mayor had been sufficiently involved in emergency preparedness given the other demands of his position and that many things happened in the mayor’s office”.

“Perhaps limited visibility into the mayor’s emergency preparedness efforts influenced EMD’s perspective,” the final report states.

Lowe of CPARS Consulting said little changed in the final report in terms of “findings and background analysis”.

He acknowledged that the language had been softened in parts of the final version, calling the making 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 get the attention of the right people who are responsible for effecting the change,” Lowe said. “We don’t want these reviews to be swept under the rug. At the same time, the results need to be communicated in a way that those in a position to effect change are still receptive to the report’s findings and motivated to act. .”

In total, more than 1,300 changes were made to the draft reports, many of which were minor edits, according to the LA Times’ analysis of the two drafts.

Lowe said requests for changes came to him from the mayor’s office and other departments and agencies. “CPARS then independently ruled on each request on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Harrison Wollman, spokesman for Garcetti, said the mayor 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 set up mega-vaccination sites,” Wollman said. “Any crisis is an opportunity to learn lessons for the future, and the mayor knows that this experience has prepared the city to better handle future emergencies.”

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