LA commissioner scores $3 million no-bid contract, paid for by employees forced to get tested twice per week

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LOS ANGELES, CA- As always in politics and government, you need to follow the money. The latest case involving curious financial shenanigans comes to us courtesy of Los Angeles, California, where a no-bid contract involving mandatory COVID testing of city employees has some, shall we say, nefarious underpinnings.

Meet Dr. Pedram Salimpour, a member of the Los Angeles pension commission who was so appointed in 2017. Salimpour is part owner of a company called PPS Health Inc., DBA Bluestone Safety, which was granted a $3 million contract to test unvaccinated city employees. Does this smell a bit? You decide.

Now, the Los Angeles Police Protective League is suing the city and demanding an investigation for failure to disclose Salimpour’s quite apparent conflict of interest, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

“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 union spokesman Tom Saggau. “We all deserve answers.”

Under the lawsuit, they seek to block the city’s forcing unvaccinated employees to pay for COVID-19 tests through payroll deductions of $65 per test, twice a week. There is a preliminary hearing scheduled for Dec. 8.

Law Enforcement Today was tipped off to the clearly unethical and probably illegal goings on by an anonymous source. We have also received copies of email correspondence.

On Nov. 23, 2020, Darryl Lucien, on behalf of PPS Health sent an email to Amanda Daflos, who then served as the Chief Innovation Officer for Los Angeles, and Jeff Gorell, who serves as Deputy Mayor for Homeland Security in the city.

The email, which can be seen below, was sent subsequent to a conversation had with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Andre Herndon.

 

Mayor’s Office Email Ch… by Scott Schwebke

The purpose of the email was to lobby for PPS Health and its health app that “manages the risks of COVID-19 exposure” and also offered both telehealth and COVID-testing.

The email notes the products were developed by “two prominent medical doctors” from the city, noting that one (Salimpour) previously served as the president of the LA County Medical Association. The email did not mention Salimpour’s affiliation with the pension boards.

Salimpour never mentioned his affiliation with the pension board, which seems suspicious on its face. Clearly this arrangement smells really bad, and the fact Salimpour was less than forthcoming about the overwhelming conflict of interest leads one to believe that something isn’t right.

The LA Personnel Department said it allegedly vetted seven vendors with vaccine and testing tracking capability prior to awarding the no-bid, “emergency” contract to Bluestone. No other vendors were identified, also suspicious.

According to Personnel Department spokesman Bruce Whidden, Bluestone was the only company which offered a variety of services at a competitive rate.

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

Law Enforcement Today received a copy of the contract between Bluestone and the City of Los Angeles. As of March 17, 2020, the Los Angeles City Council resolved that competitive bidding restrictions as outlined in the City Charter Section 317 and LAAC Section 10.15 were suspended for any contract entered related to “local emergency and mitigation efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

LA commissioner scores  million no-bid contract, paid for by employees forced to get tested twice per week
City of Los Angeles waiver of bidding process-Contract with Bluestone

The contract further states that City Ordinance 187134 provided that “employees ‘with medical or religious exemptions and who are required to regularly report to a City worksite shall be subject to weekly COVID 19 tests…following a process and timeline determined by the City.” [emphasis added]

LA commissioner scores  million no-bid contract, paid for by employees forced to get tested twice per week
Requirement for weekly testing LA-clipped from contract

The devil however is in the details. Digging further into the contract, Attachment D-Fee Schedule, is where things get even more interesting. Keep in mind that Bluestone already has a $3 million dollar no-bid contract. The fees are above and beyond that $3 million.

LA commissioner scores  million no-bid contract, paid for by employees forced to get tested twice per week
Payment Terms LA No-bid COVID testing-clipped from contract

Under the fee schedule, each test will cost employees…NOT the city $65 each. The city is forcing employees to submit to two tests weekly which will be taken from employee’s paychecks through payroll deduction. In other words, employees will pay $6760 a year for testing.

LA commissioner scores  million no-bid contract, paid for by employees forced to get tested twice per week
Bluestone payment schedule-clipped from contract

If the city falls below 2,500 tests in a week, that fee increases to $70 per test, once again paid for by employees through payroll deduction. You would almost think the city is punishing employees to claim either a medical or religious exemption by forcing them to pay for testing, which would seen to be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But wait, there’s more. If at any time the city falls below 1,000 tests per month or if the city doesn’t use testing for some reason, Bluestone will collect a cool $125,000 per month for “software maintenance” fees for the duration of the one-year contract.

The Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions Board, which manages over $30 billion in assets while administering retirement and health benefits for some 27,000 current and retired public safety employees and their beneficiaries doesn’t believe Salimpour did anything wrong, despite the fact that his brother, Pejman Salimpour, is the one who signed the contract. Nepotism anyone?

Saggau says something isn’t right with this arrangement.

“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?”

In response, Bluestone claims it didn’t do anything wrong. “Bluestone sought out and followed legal advice and complied with all applicable ethics laws,” a spokesperson said. “The allegations made by the Los Angeles Police Protective League are simply false.”

That may not be true, based on the emails sent to Garcetti’s office late last year seeking an opportunity to provide COVID testing as noted above.

After the introduction email sent by Lucien, Pedram Salimpour responded on Nov 24:

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. As Daryl mentioned we have been involved in clinical operations for large scale and very large scale operations throughout the United States for over two decades. We would love to speak with you about how we partner, work with, and work for Los Angeles in this endeavor. This obviously happens to be near and dear to my heart because this is where I live and grew up and where all of our staff are so if there is any way that we can be helpful, it will be incredible for me personally. [emphasis added] Thank you very much. Pedram.

Subsequently on Dec. 9, Dr. Pejman Salimpour thanked Daflos and Herndon for speaking with him the previous day and gave them a copy of the Bluestone presentation. He noted that “we” would be “available at your pleasure to continue our conversation.”

On Jan 12, 2021, Lucien sent a follow up email to “Team Garcetti”:

“Our company is able to offer this program for minimal costs to city employees because of our ability to bill employees’ insurers,” Lucien wrote. “Depending on contract terms such as indemnification, and administrative requirements, we may need to charge a variable startup rate. We are hopeful to contribute to reducing the transmission of COVID-19 among the city’s workforce soon. Please let us know very soon whether your interest remains?”

Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League said the revelations raise serious questions about Salimpour’s lobbying for the contract.

“The revelations in these emails confirm that Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension Commissioner Pedram Salimpour used his considerable political influence to personally engage in an aggressive lobbying campaign aimed at the highest echelons of Mayor Garcetti’s office to successfully land a lucrative, no-bid contract for his COVID-19 testing start-up company, Bluestone,” he said.

“The public needs to know who was pulling the strings to funnel a $3 million no-bid contract to perform Covid testing to an entity that doesn’t own a Covid testing lab, doesn’t produce Covid testing kits, and has virtually zero experience managing a pandemic related mass public health effort. Who else in city government, besides the mayor’s office, was involved, who else was lobbied to award this contract to the newly formed Bluestone and its city-commissioner owner?”

The suspicious contract between Bluestone and the city has gained the attention of at least one competitor, Newport Beach-based Vivera Pharmaceuticals, which announced it would offer free COVID-19 testing to all first responders and their families in Southern California.

“There is no reason to force first responders to pay for testing in order to keep their jobs,” said Vivera CEO Paul Edalat in a statement.

“We are committed to doing our part in this pandemic, and that does not mean profiting off the backs of those who serve our communities.”

To nobody’s surprise, the city said it won’t accept third-party tests. Because clearly it isn’t about public health—it’s about politics and punishing those who won’t play along with the COVID hysteria.

According to an internal memo from Deputy Chief Daniel Rudolph to Police Chief Michel Moore obtained by the Southern California News Group, at least 3,305 LAPD employees required twice-weekly COVID-19 testing, which means LAPD test sites have to distribute and collect over 6,600 test kits weekly.

While testing was initially scheduled to begin on Nov. 15, the LA Personnel Department sent an email to employees last week which said the start of the program has been delayed, with no reason given and a new start date was not provided. This is the second such postponement, with original testing slated to begin Nov. 8.

Under the vaccination mandate put in place by Garcetti, Los Angeles employees have until Dec. 18 to either get vaccinated or apply for a religious or medical exemption. Those who refuse risk termination, city officials said. Testing will continue for city employees until such exemptions are approved until a ruling is made, which union officials say could take months to complete.

According to Los Angeles radio talk show hosts John & Ken on KFI, Salimpour is described as a “prolific political donor” to people like Mark Ridley-Thomas, aa Los Angeles city councilman who has been indicted in a federal corruption probe, as reported on these pages last month.

Another councilman, Mitch Englander has already served jail time and is being moved to a pre-release halfway house. He was sentenced to prison earlier this year in connection with a kickback scheme involving developers.

In other words, Salimpour has donated money to LA politicians and he is now apparently the beneficiary of having made those donations…kind of like quid pro quo. 

Jamie McBride, Director of the LA Police Protective League told John & Ken that something odd is going on with this arrangement and noted that city hall seems to have a problem with corruption, noting several arrests of city council members. He also said he found it odd that you can have a company owned by a city commissioner and political donor win a $3 million, no-bid contract for COVID testing.

He noted the union has been trying to negotiate the vaccine mandates, and said the city was adamant that only Bluestone could be used for COVID testing.

McBride said just under 2,000 officers have filed for exemptions, while the city hasn’t even begun to look at them in order to make a decision, while others simply do not want the vaccination period. He noted that Garcetti has basically said police officers would “have to find another job” if they weren’t going to get vaccinated.

Last week, the police union lost a bid for a temporary restraining order when Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff said the union didn’t provide a sufficient showing of any immediate harm if a TRO was not granted. A hearing for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Dec. 8, according to MyNewsLA.

Law Enforcement Today is attempting to find out if Bluestone or its partners have made any donations to Garcetti’s campaigns and will follow up if we are able to glean additional information. 

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For more on the corruption that permeates Los Angeles city officials, we invite you to read our prior report on that. 

DIG DEEPER

The New York Post is reporting that a high-level Los Angeles Democrat has been indicted in a federal corruption probe.

Councilman Mark Ridley Thomas, 66 along with former dean Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83 are expected to be arraigned in the next few days on charges of conspiracy, bribery, honest services mail fraud and honest services wire fraud.

The charges carry decades in prison if they are convicted, although honestly at their age, the chances of any type of lengthy sentence is questionable.

 

The indictments stem from a scheme whereby Ridley-Thomas and a former dean at the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work hatched a deal to direct lucrative contracts to the school in exchange for a scholarship for his son, as well as a professorship.

In a statement, Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said:

“This indictment charges a seasoned lawmaker who allegedly abused the public’s trust by taking official actions to benefit his family member and himself.

The corrupt activities alleged in the indictment were facilitated by a major university’s high-ranking administrator whose desire for funding apparently trumped notions of integrity and fair,” she said in a statement.

Prosecutors allege that in May 2017, when Ridley-Thomas was then serving as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, he told Flynn that one of his relatives had an interest in attending graduate school at USC. Although the relative isn’t specifically identified in the indictment, details seem to match that of his son, Sebastian.

Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was a member of the California state Assembly between the years of 2013 and 2017, however was forced to resign as an internal investigation of possible sexual harassment was underway.

The results of this investigation, which ended in 2019, showed that Sebastian Ridley-Thomas had likely engaged in making unwanted sexual advances toward a Capitol staffer.

The statement from Wilkison’s office showed that the elder Thomas “allegedly wanted to help secure paid employment for his relative to minimize any public fallout for them both in the wake of the sudden resignation from office.”

According to the indictment, the elder Ridley-Thomas gave Flynn a “heads up” about Sebastian, whereby a week later she emailed a colleague at the university, stating that she “intend[ed] to open every door for” Sebastian, the now disgraced ex government official.

In a case of quid pro quo, Flynn told Mark Ridley-Thomas that she would agree to help Sebastian receive a joint master’s degree from the USC School of Social Work and School of Public Policy.

In exchange, she wanted him to assist the university in landing contracts with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and Probation Department—as well as a demand to alter an existing telehealth contract “in order to bolster the School of Social Work’s budget,” which was in the throes of “a multi-million-dollar” deficit.

The indictment continues to allege that while the elder Ridley-Thomas steered contracts through the Board of Supervisors, Flynn was working to get his son through the master’s degree programs “without adhering to the standard sequence of coursework.”

In order to facilitate this, Flynn, the former dean facilitated the creation of an “entire online curriculum which had never existed previously for this program.”

Later that fall, both Ridley-Thomas’s lobbied for Sebastian to receive a paid professorship. At some point Flynn became aware that the elder Ridley-Thomas had convinced another official at the university to support changing the telehealth contract, which led to her directing Sebastian receive a $26,000 scholarship for both the spring and summer terms in 2018. 

She also arranged for a paid teaching position which carried with it a $50,000 salary, although being both a student and professor violated USC policy.

Following up, in April 2018 Flynn “agreed to funnel $100,000” in Mark Ridley-Thomas campaign funds through USC to an unidentified nonprofit “to be operated by” Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

In a Wednesday statement, the University of Southern California said it became aware of the $100,000 payment in the summer of 2018, whereby they reported it to federal prosecutors at that time and have “fully cooperated” with the investigation since that time.

“Marilyn Flynn has not been employed by the university since September 2018,” the statement read. “We will continue to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and must limit comments because this is a pending criminal matter.”

Ridley-Thomas is widely considered to be one of the most powerful and best-known politicians in Southern California. Serving his fourth nonconsecutive term on the LA City Council, he chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee. He has also served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and served one term each in the state Assembly and the state Senate.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the scandal involving Flynn and Ridley-Thomas is but the latest in a series of missteps at the university.

They cite the former medical school dean, who was exposed as a drug addict who used methamphetamine, heroin, and other drugs, as well as a longtime campus gynecologist who was accused of sexual misconduct by hundreds of USC alumnae, which led to a $1.1 billion settlement, the largest-ever sexual abuse payout by an institution of higher education.

USC was also involved in the college admissions bribery scandal, which took down actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to admissions advisors to have their children falsely admitted to the university as athletes.

Flynn’s attorney said that her client “has not committed any crime, and we believe that the evidence in this case will ultimately support this conclusion.”

She called Flynn a veteran academic who “worked tirelessly for the involvement and betterment of the social welfare network in Los Angeles and around the country.” Dean served as dean at USC for 21 years. According to the indictment, she was “removed” from her position around June 2018.

Federal prosecutors were tipped off after the Los Angeles Times found that USC had provided the scholarship to Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and appointed him as a professor at the same time his father funneled campaign money through the university which ended up in a nonprofit run by Sebastian.

The Times said that USC alerted federal prosecutors about the unusual arrangement after an internal investigation. It also noted that Flynn was under enormous budget pressure at the time of the scheme with Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Federal authorities said in announcing the indictment that Ridley-Thomas would be allowed to voluntarily surrender to the U.S. attorney’s office; Flynn’s attorney confirmed she will also surrender.

This is just the latest in a series of scandals to plague the LA City Council. Former councilman Jose Huizar is awaiting trial on racketeering, bribery, money laundering and other charges. That scheme involves multiple real estate developers who were seeking to build projects in his district when he served on the council.

Another councilman, Mitchell Englander is serving a 14-month bid in jail after he pleaded guilty for lying to federal authorities about cash and other gifts he received in casinos in Las Vegas and near Palm Springs.

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In case you missed our report on the cheating scandal at USC involving Loughlin and Huffman, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

LOS ANGELES, CA- Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman along with a number of high-profile CEO’s are among the nearly 50s at both the high school and college levels, and standardized test administrators, who engaged in the practices of “getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams.”

In all, 33 parents — including Loughlin and Huffman — allegedly paid a collective sum of $25 million to a college admissions counselor named William Singer, according to ABC News, who then “bribed college officials, coaches and college entrance exam administrators, who then helped students secure admissions ‘not on their merits but through fraud.'”

The FBI contends that Singer’s bribes went to officials at some of the most elite colleges in the country, including Yale, Stanford, UCLA, Georgetown, the University of San Diego, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, and the University of Southern California, and to college entrance exams administrators for both the SAT and ACT.

In one case, ” the head women’s soccer coach at Yale was paid $400,000 to accept a student even though the applicant did not play soccer. The parents of that student had allegedly paid Singer $1.2 million.”

In other cases, Singer allegedly facilitated cheating on college entrance exams, asking parents to pay between $15,000 and $75,000 to have other students take the SATs and ACTs in place of their children. Once he received the money, the FBI contends, Singer allegedly used a professional test taker to either pose as the students, “provid[e] students with answers during the exams.” or “correct[] their answers after they had completed the exams.”

Huffman herself is accused of giving a “purported charitable donation” of $15,000 to Singer in order to get her eldest daughter into an elite college. She and he husband, actor William H. Macy (referred to in the complaint only as “spouse”), also allegedly connected with Singer a second time to begin facilitating college admissions for their younger daughter, but eventually pulled out of the project.

Loughlin is in somewhat deeper, charging documents allege, having “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”

The two actresses were caught on wiretaps according to the complaint, and “both were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.” They were arrested Tuesday “without incident,” according to ABC.

Neither the students nor the schools themselves have been charged with any wrongdoing, only a handful of administrators whom the FBI says took the bribes directly. In some cases, the FBI’s complaint alleges, the students were completely unaware that they were being afforded special privileges that their parents had paid for. 


Editor note: In 2020, we saw a nationwide push to “defund the police”.  While we all stood here shaking our heads wondering if these people were serious… they cut billions of dollars in funding for police officers.  And as a result, crime has skyrocketed – all while the same politicians who said “you don’t need guns, the government will protect you” continued their attacks on both our police officers and our Second Amendment rights.

And that’s exactly why we’re launching this national crowdfunding campaign as part of our efforts to help “re-fund the police”.

For those looking for a quick link to get in the fight and support the cause, click here.

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