Sexual Harassment Claim Could Leave C...

Sexual Harassment Claim Could Leave City of La Habra Heights Bankrupt!

There are 34 comments on the story from Oct 6, 2008, titled Sexual Harassment Claim Could Leave City of La Habra Heights Bankrupt!. In it, reports that:

Special Report 10/6/08 -PDF: Read the Claim by Ms. Somma

LA HABRA HEIGHTS - A claim filed with the City of La Habra Heights, the Fire Department and Fire Chief John J. Nielsen, by former Paramedic Coordinator, Sabrina Somma could result in a multimillion-dollar award against the City. Mentioned in the claim with no specifics are “…repeated sexual/gender harassment and discrimination, libelous comments by John Nielsen…”

The claim, dated August 6, 2008, which was sent via mail and fax to the City, first came into public light on the September 11, 2008 agenda of the La Habra Heights City Council. Though the City Council may have known and addressed the claim in closed session at their regular meeting in August, no mention was made then or has been made to the public. Michael Parks, with the law firm Schimmel & Parks, Ms. Somma’s attorney, indicated the City denied the claim shortly after the September 11, 2008 City Council meeting.

Mayor Stan Carroll, a long time supporter of the embattled La Habra Heights Fire Chief, confirmed via a telephone interview that the City had denied the complaint, presumably in closed session. This, despite stating publicly that no reportable action had been taken. Mayor Carroll indicated the City was taking Ms. Somma's claim very seriously. Citing personnel matters, he was unable to comment on why Chief Nielsen was still on duty, in spite of the laundry list of complaints mentioned within the claim against him and the City. Mr. Carroll asked that further questioning be referred to the newly appointed City Manager Shauna Clark.

Ms. Clark responded by stating that "The City takes Ms. Somma's comments very seriously and of course we are going to engage in an city employees have been interviewed yet.” Ms. Clark went on to say “We have hired a firm to do the work, a professional firm and we're moving forward.”

The cost to the City for the special investigator was not provided. Sources indicate the estimated cost could reach $29,000. Additionally, no indication was given if the City Council consented to the hiring of a special investigator.

Link to complete report (click here)

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Barn Yard Fun


#1 Oct 7, 2008
It was predicted that one of his own would bring him down.

Bye Bye, John

Los Angeles, CA

#2 Oct 7, 2008
I am not too sure John is ever-straight forward with any of us. He out right lied about fire insurance rates not being affected by the closing of fire stations. Our home insurance has gone up over $679 since 2006. Maybe itís time for you to move on John?
Seriously Its Time

Columbus, OH

#3 Oct 7, 2008
Is it not criminal to destroy evidence? And what a laugh to read the city launched an internal investigation, brother that makes some serious sense.
Seriously itís time to call the District Attorney.
B side

United States

#4 Oct 11, 2008
Is Shuana Clark, who is now your city manager is involved in a cover up? Clark was told in a private meeting this past February, that Nielsen was forcing the paramedic coordinator to lie about an insufficient level of qualified medics on duty to DHS(2 are required). A lack of medics, plague the city's paramedic program, that also serves the Los Angeles County AUTO AID area of La Habra. Will Miss Clark, also be under investigation?
over the top


#5 Oct 11, 2008
Let the attorneys sueing do their job. There is only one person making these posts. Could it be someone who mans the website? Has connections with the media? Loathes the fire chief? Makes wild accusations without supporting facts?

Bet it is. All parties involved will do what they have to do. The city will defend itself right or wrong.

United States

#6 Nov 3, 2008
"OVER THE TOP", Yes, I post all the News on this web site. My day (night) job is to get news out on a national level, but LHH is my home and thus find time to report on issues not covered in the local media.


over the top


#7 Nov 7, 2008
Thanks New Star, but I do find it interesting that the City has not put the Chief under administrative leave while under investigation. Most cities or law enforcement agencies do that. I do find it interesting that the news has not been made public to the community other than council meetings. Most community members do not know even about your site or the Chief. Mostly, you are doing good work. It is just interesting that as time passes, the City still keeps the Chief on duty and is paying attorney fees to defend themselves without full community involvement.
Former Heights Capt

Penryn, CA

#8 Dec 8, 2008
I work for one of the largest metropolitan Fire Departments in the State, and was a Part Time Captain in the Heights until the summer when scheduling conflicts would no longer allow me to work my full time spot and spend time in the heights.
Having said that, my impression of the Chief was that he was always doing what was best for the Citizens of the Heights, even when they were their own worst enemies sometimes.
The citizens of the heights get way more than they pay for, and the station is way over do for a remodel and expansion.
Most of the Captains there work for very large agencies and come to work in the heights because of the Chief, and the comraderie at the Heights.
All of this for $15 an hour. It's been under Chief Nielsens leadership that the Heights has a Paramedic Program, a high caliber of Captains and Engineers, and staffing for 2 engines and a Paramedic Squad every day.
Do the math, you're getting a bargain!
Do you think myself, or any of the other Captains work in the Heights for the Money? We do it because the Heights is what the Fire Service is supposed to be about, and that is serving the community. Not politics, not in fighting like we see at our "Other Jobs" and this has been because of Chief Nielsen not letting the politics spill over into the Fire House.
I would suggest that before you crucify the man, you really look at what he has done for your community, and try and remember Innocent until Proven guilty.

Los Angeles, CA

#9 Dec 9, 2008
Former Heights Capt wrote:
I would suggest that before you crucify the man, you really look at what he has done for your community, and try and remember Innocent until Proven guilty.
Former Heights Capt,

Here is some public information on Fire Chief John Nielsenís legal trouble.

Link to Gender Discrimination, Sexual Harassment lawsuit filed against, City of La Habra Heights, Fire Chief John J. Nielsen and Fire Marshall Ken Hill.

Link to MEMO from City of La Habra Heights Attorney to City stating Fire Chief Nielsen may sue the city he serves.

Has Chief Nielsen really served the community well?
Interested Party

Sierra Madre, CA

#10 Dec 9, 2008
Well, well. Hill is mentioned in the suit, too.

I read what the alleged statements from Defendant to plaintiff where and it doesn't sound like Defendant's speech pattern at all. The wages issue I truly believe because getting money out of the City is a real hardship.

Some other person accused the department of destroying records on response to calls? How would you do that? Everything is copied in multiple places including "tape" recording and handwritten records. Department is very diligent about that since everything could be called to evidence. And, don't forget, everything that comes into the department as a call has to go through Sheriff Department. And, they have all kinds of records, too. So, how destroyed those?

Hard to separate the bullshit from the truth, dontcha think?

Los Angeles, CA

#11 Dec 9, 2008
Interested Party wrote:
Some other person accused the department of destroying records on response to calls? How would you do that? Everything is copied in multiple places including "tape" recording and handwritten records. Department is very diligent about that since everything could be called to evidence.
Email Dated: 1/23/07

Staff has the two tapes related to the above incidents. The machine used to record the tapes is a NICE recorder made in Israel, uses DAT tapes and is +/- eight years old. Fire staff does not have the expertise to use the recorder to read and transcribe the tapes once the tape is removed from the machine. The City has talked with a consultant who is willing to attempt to retrieve the information from the tapes at a cost of +/-$600, providing the NICE recorder is functioning properly.
I am unwilling to authorize the retrieval as a City expense since my review of the process revealed no discrepancies. Should you care to pursue this matter please contact my office, and at your expense we can arrange for a consultant to transcribe the tapes. The consultant, with our older equipment, is not willing to guarantee success.

Ron Bates
La Habra Heights City Manager (2007)

Email dated: 2/7/2007

It is unsual for the City to need detailed information from the NICE Recorder, but if information is needed it is likely to be needed in a timely manner subsequest to a call-for-service. The tapes last in the Recorder approximately 20 days depending on the number of calls recorded on the tape. As I mentioned in my previous email, staff has the capability of reading the tape as long as the tape is still in the machine. Consequently, the current recorder is still useful and in nearly all cases has provided to staff any needed information subsequent to a call-for-service.
Since the current machine is eight years old with non-digital technology, Fire Department personnel will be reviewing the need for a new recording machine as part of the 2007-08 Budget process.

Ron Bates

FYI: DAT is digital
Interested reader


#12 Dec 11, 2008
My understanding is we used to have other fire stations in the city and a resident volunteer fire crew. We need as many people as we can get to protect our city. It looks like Santiago Cyn. and every other place that has burned in the past few years. We have just been lucky so far. The current chief is the one who got rid of these things, isn't he? What good did that do us? We had paramedics through La Habra, didn't we? So we had a program. Until we didn't want to pay for it, ticked La Habra off because we wanted something for nothing. I know firemen who live in this city and they don't think the chief is doing a good job and are very scared that we will go up. If we're going to catch fire, we're going to catch fire. But shouldn't we have a chief that likes the community, which he doesn't, and one who wants as many helping hands as he can get. He doesn't. I think about moving from here because I feel unsafe.
Former Heights Capt

Penryn, CA

#13 Dec 12, 2008
To New Star and some of the others on this board, I have a few questions.

1) Are any of you George Edwards or affiliated with him?

2) Some of the documents listed on this site do not fall under the Freedom of Information action, so how did you get them?

3) Is a person in the US not considered Innocent until proven guilty?

I am well aware of the charges against the Chief, but you did not address or dismiss any of the items I brought up.

If there are in fact Career Firefighters living in the heights, then they should be volunteering, or speaking up at Council meetings.

The new station is long over due, and yes there is a need for the East side to have a station, but again, the Heights residents are their own worst enemies.

If you are so truly worried about Fire Protection issues, then you need to vote with your wallett, and tax yourselves for appropiate protection levels and pay to have the type of folks you want in the Fire Station.

Keep in mind that my opinions are based on operational issues, and not ill will on a personal basis.

The heights gets 2 Engines staffed with 4 people each, and a Paramedic Squad staffed with two personnel, for about $1500.00 a day in personnel costs.

Divide $1500 by 10 personnel =$150 per person
Divide $150.00 by 24 hours =$6.25 an hour

So the heights spends less than minimum wage on an average for it's Fire Protection and Advanced Life Support.

I hear alot of complaining and fingerpointing on this board, but I see no one outraged at the low wages being paid by the City, or the fact that there is no formal retention plan for personnel.

As to the memo about the Chief, it's well within his rights as an employee to be treated fairly, is he not? You have bad mouthed him on this site for ALLEDGELY not behaving properly, yet you take no issue with the fact that he may have been harassed as well?

You're either in, or out, but the law is clear, there is no double standard, everyone is equal, and therefore that makes the Chief well within his rights to seek legal counsel on a labor issue.

So again, I am stating my support for the Chief, and for what he has done for the Heights with very little support from the community.

You know what they say, "Be Careful for what you wish, for you may have it".

Best of luck..........

Blairsville, PA

#14 Dec 13, 2008
Former Heights Capt wrote:
The heights gets 2 Engines staffed with 4 people each, and a Paramedic Squad staffed with two personnel, for about $1500.00 a day in personnel costs.
Former Heights Capt,

Thank you for taking the time to post your concerns. Perhaps you can help explain the staffing/ranking of the one engine and 1 medic on the squad to a structure fire response listed below. This is just one of the many public records all confirming only 1 engine and 1 medic unit staffed.

So why tell the community you always have 2 engines and 1 medic unit fully staffed everyday?

Is that not disingenuous to mislead the community into thinking it gets proper fire and rescue services from its city?

La Habra Heights Incident Report 06-197 "Structure Fire on Skyline Drive"
The official City of La Habra Heights Incident Report for a Structure fire on July 25, 2006, Time: 16:47 (4:47pm)

Only one engine, a squad and command vehicle, were dispatched. No call for mutual aid from Area E or Los Angeles County was made. The staffing of this incident is puzzling and needs additional clarification.

Here is a map of the route taken at 4:52pm. The distance traveled was 5.1 miles. The average speed would have been 43.7 MPH to get there in 7 minutes as the report states.

In case the above link does not work here is the address listed below:

One last general question, since engine 76 is the 2nd due engine (if it was staffed) how do you get 4 firefighters in the 3-man cab of that engine?
Over The Top


#15 Dec 13, 2008
I have read the complaint. First of all, apparently there is written material to support this claim. Second,the plaintiff's law firm needs to correct their pleadings to state La Habra Heights, not La Habra. Third, these types of lawsuits are extremely costly, so the law firm representing the plaintiff obviously saw proof of credibility. Fourth,there is written material from the city attorney, received from the Chief's attorney, that the city of LHH better treat him nice or he will sue and go out on workman's comp. Sounds like a defensive move to me and one he should not have made. Might bite him in the rear with those kind of statements rather than a blanket denial of the charges, which would have been appropriate. Everyone should take this lawsuit very seriously and demand the Chief be put on administrative leave until the investigation is completed. Certainly is going to cost this city an enormous amount of money either way. If discrimination is present, and I believe it is, I certainly hope this city gets every employee and committee member on a program or class to abide by discrimination/sexual/harassme nt laws.
Former Heights Captain

United States

#16 Dec 14, 2008
New Star;

You still did not answer any of my questions, so I am assuming that you are either Mr. Edwards or someone affiliated with him, which from my limited experience with you ( Mr. Edwards ) you have a very large axe to grind with the chief.

While that is fine in a personal forum, you are supposed to be a journalist, and journalism is supposed to be fair and unbiased.

Having said that, I cannot respond to your post without knowing ALOT more details.

Was an engine out of service for maintenance, were personnel out of teh area for training ( Which goes on at many other departments).

There are a number of good explanations that could justify the one engine only response.

Either way, the people of the heights are still getting a bargain for the level of service they are paying for.

As to your comment about how an engine can qualify with only three people, that is the normal staffing for over 75% of the fire service in California, with the optimal being 4 personnel, but there are areasin Ca. where there is only one person assigned to an engine.

I will make time to research what you have posted, but I would appreciate you answering my questions.

If you are in fact Mr. Edwards, I applaud your effort to change things by running for the council, but I caution you to be careful for you wish, for you may have it.

I have worked for a lot of Chiefs in my 20+ year career, and I can assure you that Chief Nielsen is above average as a Chief Officer.

And again, innocent until proven guilty, so if the reports are true and proven, then it is truly an unfortunate event and changes will be made.

either way, even if he is innocent, it is cheaper to settle out of court than to litigate it, so we may never know.

I truly hope that if the allegations are false that the City fight it all the way into the hands of jury.
Former Heights Captain

United States

#17 Dec 14, 2008
I read the report from your link, and I have even more questions.

1) How was the call dispatched, it may not have required a two engine response.

2) It shows a July date, and in July 06, they DAY FIRE burned the entire month of July, so I'd have to check to verify that in fact we did not have an engine out.

3) There was Chief assigned to the response, who could have made a specific dispatch request.

The items are endless.

Again, if this not about a personal vendetta, and in good journalim, these questions would have been asked, and answered in a public forum.

“Exclusive Investigation!”

Since: Jun 07

La Habra Heights

#18 Dec 17, 2008
Breaking News - La Habra Heights Fire Chief resigns!

see link to story below:
Interested reader


#19 Jan 1, 2009
Former Captain. It is common knowledge in this city that the chief has not acted in a professional manner on many occasions. Stated in a meeting with many high profile professionals that the "Residents of La Habra Heights suck". Lied to and about residents and city staff. While under his watch, the fire department showed up at city meetings using up all of the parking, including handicapped, to make a point for Ron Bates agenda, to build a station on West and Hacienda (which we couldn't afford). He stated recently to a resident that he hates 97% of the people who live in the heights and she is one of the 3% he likes. There are many reasons I'm not going to list as the list goes on and on as to why the residents of the town don't feel like he is the right man for the job of chief here.We don't have any issues with the fire department. It is the chief who needed to go and he has so all is well. Hope our new chief understand protecting a city that looks like this one. And your, you get what you pay for attitude, is not very nice. We deserve to be and feel safe.

Los Angeles, CA

#21 Jan 9, 2009
were is my comment ?

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