Mon, Jul

Litigation Targets Cynthia McClain-Hill, President of DWP Board


LA WATCHDOG - Four current and former employees of the Department of Water and Power have filed a complaint in Superior Court against the Department that essentially targets Cynthia McClain-Hill, the President of the politically appointed Board of Water and Power Commissioners.

There are five causes of action: 1) whistleblower retaliation; 2) harassment and hostile work environment; 3) discrimination; 4) retaliation; and 5) failure to take corrective action.  

McClain-Hill appears to be the primary culprit of this complaint.  She made inappropriate sexual comments to a senior DWP manager in an out-of-town elevator, and she later subjected him and his department to harassing audits because he reported her actions to the Department. 

He was subsequently fired after he questioned the failure of the Department to provide the federal government with a critical audit involving the breach of the Department’s security systems.

She retaliated against two employees when they questioned her efforts to award a sweetheart, no bid contract to Dakota Communications, a company run by a friend and political ally, despite the firm lacking the necessary qualifications. One of the employees was subsequently fired despite being promised a promotion.

The other employee also questioned McClain-Hill’s travel arrangements and expense accounts, only to be subjugated to a series of harassing audits.  

Despite the four plaintiffs informing the higher ups of these transgressions, no actions were taken to investigate the claims and hold people accountable.   

The question now is what will Mayor Karen Bass and the Board of Commissioners do?  Will the politically wired McClain continue as President of the Board of Commissioners as if nothing happened?  Will McClain-Hill be sidelined as the litigation continues? Or will Mayor Bass ask for her resignation?

While McClain-Hill is presumed to be innocent, where there is smoke, there is fire.  For the benefit of the Department, which is just winding up the scandal involving the sham sue-and-settle litigation involving the botched rollout of the customer billing system that cost Ratepayers $120 million, it would be best if McClain-Hill resigned.


The lawyer for the plaintiffs indicated that the damages will be in the range of $20 million. He expects other employees who have feared retaliation to come forth and join the plaintiffs.  

Should the Department foot the bill for McClain-Hill’s December trip to ExpoCity Dubai? Even if she was not under a cloud, it is hard to see the benefit to Ratepayers, unless it is a one-way ticket. 

There are also rumors that McClain-Hill is interested in succeeding Marty Adams as General Manager when he retires in February. However, she does not have the executive or industry experience required to manage an engineering centric, customer focused, capital intensive enterprise with over $5 billion in annual revenues and 12,000 employees that is going through a period of extensive change as it adapts to climate change at a cost expected to exceed $100 billion. 


(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].)

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