California’s occupational safety and health agency found that workers at a Los Angeles City Hall building “were exposed to unsanitary conditions from trash and bodily fluids,” issuing multiple citations for failing to keep the structure’s passageways and exteriors clean.
State inspectors responded to a complaint submitted by Deputy City Atty. Elizabeth Greenwood. She said she contracted flea-borne typhus last year while working at City Hall East, an 18-story high-rise that sits across the street from L.A.’s iconic City Hall. The City Attorney’s Office, along with several other municipal agencies, is located inside the facility.
Greenwood, who is still recovering, filed a $5-million claim against the city in March. She accuses Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti and other elected officials of recklessly endangering the public by allowing human feces and garbage to accumulate outside of her workplace, luring rats that carried typhus-infected fleas to the property.
“The people that live and do business in the city of Los Angeles expect the city of Los Angeles to not casually allow them to catch a medieval disease as they walk into City Hall,” said Greenwood in a recent interview with CBS2/KCAL9 News.
Typhus, which is seldom fatal, usually reaches humans by flea bites or flea feces. It cannot be passed person to person, according to public health officials.
The Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA, determined that the city did not provide adequate cleaning services for City Hall East’s entrances and walkways outside. According to the Los Angeles Times, homeless people often sleep in those spaces overnight. The Times went on to report that Cal/OSHA issued one citation to the City Attorney’s Office and another to the General Services Department, which oversees the maintenance of city buildings. The combined fines amounted to nearly $2,000. Both violations will be appealed.
“Our office clearly has no role in maintaining the building’s exterior grounds,” said a spokesperson for the City Attorney.
Cal/OSHA took action roughly eight months after a pest control company issued a report linking rodent infestation at City Hall to several homeless camps in the immediate area. Maintenance officials never mentioned those findings during three City Council meetings called to discuss the rat problem.
The report, submitted by pest company Cats USA, identified unsanitary conditions in the Civic Center, such as leftover food, human waste and hypodermic needles. …
Greenwood said she viewed Cal/OSHA’s actions as vindication, arguing that (L.A. City Attorney Mike) Feuer has repeatedly failed to take responsibility for how she contracted her illness. “They checked for fleas in the dead of winter, when fleas are dormant, and declared it was not their fault,” she said in an email.
Earlier this year, Greenwood claimed she had faced retaliation from her employer for contacting Cal/OSHA.
Los Angeles County set a new record with 124 typhus cases confirmed in 2018, according to the California Department of Public Health. However, Greenwood is the only City Hall employee to go public with a typhus diagnosis. She said doctors told her she would continue to test positive for the illness for another 6-12 months.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.