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Tue, Feb

DWP Oversight Is Necessary

LA WATCHDOG

LA WATCHDOG - Mayor Karen Bass announced that her office retained Korn Ferry, an internationally recognized executive search firm, to conduct a nationwide search for a new General Manager for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power because Marty Adams is retiring on March 1 after 39 years of service, including the last four as General Manager and Chief Engineer.  

There are, however, two other positions that need to be filled that will provide additional oversight of DWP: the Office of Public Accountability / Ratepayer Advocate and the Inspector General. 

Since 2012, the job of the Ratepayer Advocate has been to provide an independent analysis of water and power rates recommended by the Department.  This involves working with the DWP management in a constructive manner.  Over the years, the Ratepayer Advocate has worked on multiple rate cases, comparing proposed rates and aspirational plans with the Department’s capabilities and actual expenditures.  This has resulted in lower than requested rate increases and has saved Ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. 

To replace the current Ratepayer Advocate, Dr. Fred Pickel, whose term expired on December 12, the City has formed a five-member Citizens Committee to select the next Ratepayer Advocate.  Importantly, the Ratepayer Advocate needs to have an excellent understanding of the forces behind the rapid change in the utility industry as it adapts to the demands of climate change and the impact on Ratepayers. 

The office of the Inspector General was established in 2022 to provide “continuous review and oversight of contracting matters, whistleblower complaints, ethics, and other internal matters …. and will be empowered to initiate investigations and oversee the Department’s Internal Audit Division, Special investigations Unit, and ethics compliance staff.”   

Unfortunately, the appointed IG left in December of 2022 because of the lack of independence because the former DWP Board President Cynthia McClain-Hill wanted to control the office. 

Over the last year, the Department has failed to appoint an independent Inspector General.  But this is a position that is needed to protect the Department from itself.  Just imagine if the Department had an independent Inspector General when it was awarding a no bid $30 million contract to an unqualified supplier.  Or when the City Attorney’s office led by Mike Feuer orchestrated the sham lawsuit involving the botched rollout of DWP’s new Customer Information System that cost Ratepayers over $100 million.  Or would the Department been able to head off litigation by four former and current employees alleging sexual harassment, retaliation, and a hostile work environment.   

These two important offices will provide additional oversight of DWP that will result in considerable savings for the Ratepayers at a nominal cost.  

 

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There is considerable controversy over whether the next General Manager should be a current employee.  This issue needs to be addressed by Korn Ferry. This will require the firm to get a better understanding of the internal dynamics of the Department’s management so that the Mayor can make an informed decision based on the facts, not the politics, surrounding the appointment of the next General Manager.  

 

(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].)