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The DWP Inspector General Announcement: Garcetti’s Pitiful Head Fake

EASTSIDER-In the aftermath of Eric Garcetti and Mike Feuer’s pitiful attempts to cover up their complicity in the DWP billing litigation, now they want us to focus on a new bright shiny object -- appointing an Inspector General for DWP. Nice try.

 

This one started with Hiz Honor proudly announcing that he’s going to fix the problems at the DWP by creating yet a new position, the Office of the Inspector General, to be housed at the Department. As the Daily News reported: 

“Accountability and transparency are crucial to running a public utility that Angelenos can count on and trust,” Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti said. “An inspector general at the DWP will help us make certain that the organization is always working to uphold the highest standards of integrity and improve customer confidence.” 

However, as our very own Jack Humphreville recently pointed out, the recent headaches at the DWP may lie much closer to the Mayor’s Office than DWP Headquarters. In a piece appropriately named, “DWP Board of Commissioners Needs a Major Overhaul,”  Jack points out that any Commissioner who doesn’t kiss Garcetti’s ring doesn’t stick around very long, and he makes sure that they all know who appoints them. Same for General Managers. 

Does the DWP Board Comply with the Brown Act? 

While I’m at it, in terms of how the DWP Board actually functions as a rubber stamp for Mayor Garcetti, I took a look at some of their agendas. They don’t pass the smell test. 

As goofy as the City Council is, they hide the details of their actions by burying us in meetings and documents which become incomprehensible to the normal person. A prime example is the Council File System, which actually works well if you can match a Council File with what they want to do. 

In the case of the DWP, they do it the old-fashioned way by simply hiding documents in plain sight. For example, let’s look at the recent September 24 Board Meeting Agenda.   

There are four (4) pages of “Items for Approval.” But there is no real, meaningful description of the Items, and there is no link to find them. 

Take this example, Item 13 on the Agenda: 

“(Approved by Interim General Manager and Chief Engineer)

Approval of Agreement Nos. 47555A-0 and 47555B-0 for As-Needed Expert-Level Professional Maximo System Computer Software Services. Award to Total Resource Management, Inc., and International Business Machines Corp., for a term of five years and an amount not to exceed $25,500,000.” 

Wow, that’s a lot of bucks. But try to find the documents relating to the Item. No go. Instead, on virtually all of these items, there is simply a general disclaimer listed at the beginning of the Agenda: 

ACCESS BY THE PUBLIC TO DOCUMENTS DISTRIBUTED TO BOARD MEMBERS - Members of the public may inspect documents (other than legally confidential documents) relating to open session items on the agenda distributed to at least a majority of Board members in advance of the meeting or at the meeting. Many of the documents distributed in advance of the meeting will be available online through a link included in the item description on the agenda. Some large documents or documents received too late to link to an agenda item may not be viewable in this manner. Documents (other than confidential documents) distributed during the meeting -- if prepared by the Department, another City department or office, or a Board member – will be made available for inspection during the meeting.  Documents may be viewed in the Commission Office (JFB room 1555) prior to or after the meeting. Copies may be obtained in accordance with regular procedures for copying Department records.” 

What all this reminds me of is the old days of LA’s CRA/LA where you could look through a single set of binders with the documents in question. Something weird is going on, and I won’t even get into the closed items and how they are apparently handled. 

I also tried to look at Minutes. The most recent set of minutes I could find online were from May 28. That’s right, over four months old. And to be honest, they weren’t the most illuminating I’ve read. 

Again, for example, here are the minutes for the Ratepayers Advocate comments: 

ITEM NO. 5 – Comments from Ratepayer Advocate on agendized Item Nos. 8A and 8C.”   

That’s it. No substance, no kiss. I could go on, but why? You get the basics. 

The Takeaway 

So, looking at the governance of the Department of Water and Power, here’s the deal. It has a Commission, all appointed by the Mayor, and a General Manager, also appointed by the Mayor. Its lawyer, by statute, is the City Attorney of the City of Los Angeles, currently Mike Feuer. 

When we pound on the DWP, remember who we are really challenging. Mike Feuer, the legal genius who choreographed the fixed DWP billing litigation. And who then dropped the DWP lawsuit against PriceWaterhouseCoopers, with no cause other than his personal embarrassment. 

I have no idea if David Wright, the most recent General Manager to depart under a cloud, is dirty or not in the whole rigged DWP Billing debacle. What I do know is who appointed him, and who his attorney was. 

So, if anyone wants to believe that establishing some bullshit Office of the Inspector General for DWP is going to make everything better, I have a great deal for you on PG&E Stock. 

It’s a crying shame. The DWP is a great engineering company, our rates are competitive, our power and water are reliable, and there are a lot of lifetime employees who do a wonderful job. All that an Inspector General is going to accomplish is to pit people against each other in an adversarial series of investigations that will simply cause a lot of them to retire or refuse to talk to anyone and spend their time protecting their job. And I can’t blame them. 

In all of this, the real crooks like Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Attorney Mike Feuer who caused the pain, will sail off into the sunset, immunized and sheltered by another bogus appointment. 

Humbug.

 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. Photo above: Photo: Daily News / David Crane