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18
Tue, Jan

Will LA's Ratepayers Ever Trust the DWP Again?

LA WATCHDOG - On Monday, the United States Attorney’s Office announced that that David Alexander, a former employee of our Department of Water and Power, agreed to plead guilty to one felony charge of making false statements to the FBI. 

Alexander, as the Department’s chief information security officer and later the chief cyber risk officer, rigged the competitive bidding process for cyber related services in return for a lucrative job offer from a company controlled by New York City attorney Paul Paradis.  Paradis has also agreed to plead guilty to a bribery charge involving DWP. 

In addition, former DWP General Manager David Wright has also agreed to plead guilty to one count of bribery in connection with DWP awarding a $30 million no bid contract in 2017 to a newly formed company controlled by Paradis.   

Others will most likely be indicted because Paradis is cooperating with the FBI in its ongoing criminal investigation, Wright has admitted he participated in several other corrupt schemes, and Alexander colluded with other evaluators in fixing competitive bids for cyber related services.   

Also on Monday, the politically appointed DWP Board of Commissioners requested that the City Attorney allow the Department to retain independent counsel because of the City Attorney’s blatant conflicts of interest involving cases related to the botched roll out of the Department’s Customer Information System (“CIS”) in 2013.  In particular, the office of the City Attorney approved the hiring of Paul Paradis in connection with the class action lawsuit and the litigation against PwC, the Department’s IT consultant in the CIS, both of which were unmitigated disasters for the Department and the City. 

The Commissioners have also asked for a report on how much Ratepayer money has been spent on legal fees on the litigation involving the failed implementation of the CIS.  Ratepayers should not be on the hook shenanigans and unethical behavior orchestrated by the City Attorney’s office and the people it retained.   

These are reasonable requests that should be approved without delay by the City Attorney whose office is not without blame. 

The Department is also rushing ahead with the hiring of an Inspector General, an idea that originated over two years ago by Mayor Eric Garcetti.  While the details on the role of the IG are uncertain, especially since the Neighborhood Councils were not included in the creation of the IG as promised by management, the stated “overall objectives are to 1) Assist DWP personnel “in promoting integrity, economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in DWP’s programs and practices; and 2) Provide the General Manager and the Board of Commissioners with independent, fair, and objective evaluations and appraisals relating to utilization of DWP resources, adequacy of internal controls, and performance effectiveness.” 

While this sounds great, will the IG have the necessary expertise, staffing, and authority to oversee the DWP and implement the necessary reforms, especially given the propensity of City Hall to meddle in the affairs of the Department?  And how will the IG help restore the trust and confidence of the Ratepayers in the Department?  We shall see, but given the past performance by the politically appointed Board and the City, we should not be too optimistic. 

Now for the good news.  It rained. 

 

 (Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)