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LA County fire cheating: Some could be fired over test breaches, chief says

A firefighter and smoke from a huge wildfire are reflected in a Los Angeles County Fire Department fire engine near highway 118 in this file photo taken October 27, 2003 in Simi Valley, California. The county fire department has been under scrutiny recently over evidence of cheating on its admissions exams. Chief Daryl Osby told KPCC on Thursday, March 19, 2015, that several employees could be fired or face other disciplinary action within the next few weeks.
A firefighter and smoke from a huge wildfire are reflected in a Los Angeles County Fire Department fire engine near highway 118 in this file photo taken October 27, 2003 in Simi Valley, California. The county fire department has been under scrutiny recently over evidence of cheating on its admissions exams. Chief Daryl Osby told KPCC on Thursday, March 19, 2015, that several employees could be fired or face other disciplinary action within the next few weeks.
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In the latest fallout over possible cheating in the the Los Angeles County Fire Department's admissions process, Chief Daryl Osby now says that a number of employees could face termination or other discipline and that the process itself will be reformed.

Osby would not give an exact number but told KPCC's Larry Mantle on Thursday that about 50 employees were being interviewed and that any notices of disciplinary action would be sent out in the next two to three weeks.

The Los Angeles Times uncovered evidence of violations of the department's exam system late last year.

A county audit in February substantiated claims that test materials were being circulated among staff via email and, in some cases, passed along to potential applicants.

The audit concluded that oral interview test questions and answers used on exams between 2007 and 2011 showed up in the email accounts of 27 sworn personnel, including two battalion chiefs and 17 fire captains. Many of those personnel also passed the information on to non-county email accounts.

At least three candidates received copies of the oral interview questions and answers before they had to take the test, one of whom was the son of a captain who was later hired, according to the audit.

A follow-up investigation eventually cleared many, but not all, of those who were implicated, according to NBC4.

Osby also said there would be changes to the way the department runs its exam system moving forward and that he started the process to develop a new test in 2012, long before the Times investigation or the county audit.

At least one change was already being implemented Wednesday, when written exams were delivered to a test site in an armored truck, according to Osby. NBC4 reports more than 4,500 applicants showed up for the test.

Osby laid out several other changes to the department's exam system:

In addition, the department is developing a formal anti-nepotism policy, Osby said.

Osby told KPCC that he is not opposed to friends and family members of current fire personnel joining the department but that his main intent is to ensure that the admissions process is fair and equitable for all.

Below you can read the full county audit that was released in February:

This story has been updated.