LA WATCHDOG - Dakota Smith’s article in the Los Angeles Times, Questions, Anger After Feds Signal an End to DWP Billing Probe, indicated that the United States Attorney’s Office has closed its investigation into the scandal involving the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and the sham class action lawsuit over the botched rollout of the Department of Water and Power’s Customer Information System (“CIS”). Yet there are many unanswered questions, especially regarding the culpability of then City Attorney Mike Feuer.
As a result of DWP Ratepayers being slammed with “outrageously inflated bills” from the new and unproved billing system, a class action lawsuit was initiated in 2015. This was the beginning of the sideshow that involved a “collusive lawsuit” orchestrated by Thom Peters, a senior lawyer in Feuer’s office, where the results were predetermined by picking a compliant plaintiff’s attorney. This resulted in a quick $67 million settlement that favored the Department of Water and Power that limited discovery and the disclosure of the Department’s incompetence.
But these shenanigans were exposed in another lawsuit where the City sued PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Department’s consultant on the new CIS, hoping to be awarded triple damages. Instead, PwC’s lawyers uncovered the sham lawsuit, forcing the City and DWP to drop their claims for damages and pay a $2.6 million fine.
There was also a $2 million kickback from the class action plaintiffs’ lawyer to Paul Paradis, one of the City’s lawyers who assisted in the sham; an $800,000 payment to silence a potential whistleblower, again arranged by Peters; and four individuals pleading guilty to a variety of charges, including David Wright, DWP’s General Manager who was sentenced to six years in the clink, and attorney Thom Peters who was sentenced to nine months of home confinement.
But where was City Mike Feuer during these scandalous times?
Feuer claims he did not attend any meetings and did not have any discussions about the class action litigation and any subsequent events. Many doubt this claim because Feuer has a reputation of being a control freak, But even if he was kept in the dark, these shenanigans were on his watch, and he is therefore responsible and needs to be held accountable.
As such, Feuer should have the decency to drop out of the race to succeed Congressman Adam Schiff and save himself the embarrassment of being smeared by his opponents and getting trounced in the March primary.
According to Dakota Smith’s article, many people are wondering why more charges have not been forthcoming. Maybe the U.S. Attorney’s Office believed that it did not sufficient evidence to obtain convictions. But there is also the rumor that people in the Biden administration have told the U.S. Attorney’s Office to take it easy on pursuing corruption in the City because it was creating an unfavorable political environment.
It is not over. There is still existing litigation involving the DWP’s overbilling and the disclosure of numerous documents, an investigation by the State Bar into attorney misconduct, and the need for an accounting by DWP of the costs of this mess, including how much was paid for by the City Attorney’s office which is responsible for this fiasco.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)