Emails Show LA Commissioner Used Influence to Help Win $3 Million COVID-19 Contract, Union Alleges

‘The public deserves to know who was pulling the strings to funnel a $3 million no-bid contract’ to a company partly owned by Commissioner Dr. Pedram Salimpour

An embattled Los Angeles fire and police pensions commissioner accused of ethics violations by a law enforcement union over a $3 million contract to test unvaccinated city employees for COVID-19 began lobbying Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office nearly a year ago on behalf of his company, raising questions from critics about potential influence peddling, emails obtained by the Southern California News Group reveal.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League is suing the city and demanding an investigation, alleging it failed to disclose that testing contractor PPS Health Inc., doing business as Bluestone Safe, is partly owned by Dr. Pedram Salimpour, who was reappointed by Garcetti to the pension commission in 2017.

“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? asked Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the union. “We all deserve answers.”

The union lawsuit seeks to block the city from requiring unvaccinated employees to pay for COVID-19 tests through payroll deductions at a cost of $65 per test. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 8.

Bluestone among 7 firms vetted

The Los Angeles Personnel Department said it vetted seven vendors with vaccine and testing tracking services before awarding the no-bid, emergency contract to Bluestone to test city employees. With the exception of Bluestone, the other vendors were not identified.

Bluestone was the only company that offered a variety of services at a competitive rate, including vaccine card verification, daily symptom monitoring, a PCR saliva test, vaccine exemptions submission and tracking, and health services counseling, Bruce Whidden. a spokesman for the Personnel Department, said in an email.

“The services of Bluestone Safe have a proven success record with other area governments, including Los Angeles County and several Native American tribes,” he added.

Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions, which manages more than $30 billion in assets and administers retirement and health benefits for nearly 27,000 current and retired public safety employees and their beneficiaries, said last month Salimpour was “not engaged nor part of the review and vetting process” for the Bluestone contract.

That improbable explanation raises questions about whether Salimpour may have manipulated the pension commission, Saggau said.

“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,” he added. “Why would a city entity defend the profit-focused actions of an individual?”

Bluestone issued a statement saying it has done nothing wrong. “Bluestone sought out and followed legal advice and complied with all applicable ethics laws,” a spokesperson for the company said. “The allegations made by Los Angeles Police Protective League are simply false.”

Click here to read the full article at Los Angeles Daily News

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