|Los Angeles Fire Capt. Daniel Costa liked to go all out on the racquetball court at the LAX fire station. A fellow firefighter described him as a "very competitive" player who "likes to win."|
Costa seemed in fine form after five spirited games in the fall of 2011. So his supervisor was skeptical when Costa, then 53, said he'd hurt his knee on the court and needed time off, according to a report by investigators for the city attorney's office.
Costa was out on injury leave for a year, collecting his full salary, tax-free.
In 2009, he took a nearly year-long paid leave after a run-in at the fire station with subordinates he described as "bullies." He complained of chest pain, high blood pressure and other symptoms, state records show.
Costa has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of an injury-leave program for Los Angeles police and firefighters that has cost taxpayers $328 million over the last five years, a Times investigation found.
Total salaries paid to city public safety employees on leave increased more than 30% — to $42 million a year – from 2009 through 2013, the five-year period studied by The Times.
The number who took leaves grew 8%, and they were out of work an average of nearly 9 weeks — a 23% increase compared with 2009.
The increased frequency and cost of leaves has forced the Fire Department to spend millions of dollars a year in overtime and reduced the number of police officers on the...