LA WATCHDOG-On Tuesday afternoon, the newly constituted Board of Commissioners of our Department of Water and Power will meet for the first time. And right at the top of the regular meeting’s agenda is an informational request on the Joint Safety and Joint Training Institutes, two tax exempt organizations that were set up in 2000 and 2002 with the primary purpose of helping the IBEW defray the cost of selected union employees.
This will be an excellent opportunity for the Board of Commissioners to assert its authority and independence by demanding a full and complete report from DWP management within 30 days on how effectively (or ineffectively) $40 million of Ratepayers’ money has been spent over the last 10 years on safety and training programs managed by the IBEW. This report must be prepared without interference from campaign funding IBEW Union Bo$$ d’Arcy, his many purchased friends on the City Council, and union members that are DWP employees. This may require retaining an independent third party consultant and establishing a confidential whistleblower’s hot line.
While the front page stories on this $40 million scam involving the Joint Safety and Training Institutes and the $35 million abuse of the DWP’s sick pay polices program represent real money, they also help to obscure larger issues facing the Department, the DWP Board of Commissioners, and the Ratepayers.
An independent Board of Commissioners would be well advised to focus on the Department’s failure to engage in extensive “benchmarking” of its operations, processes, capital expenditures, salaries, benefits, and productivity as was recommended by the PA Consulting in August of 2012. In the past, any suggestion of “benchmarking” the water and power system’s efficiency was a “career ending” move because of the rabid opposition of Union Bo$$ d’Arcy.
The Commissioners must also follow up on PA Consulting’s recommendation that the Department seriously consider downsizing its Shared Services and Customer Services operations to levels that are consistent with other regional utilities. This would result in significant savings and help mitigate the never ending rate increases.
The Board should also make sure that the Joint Labor Management Resolution Board actively reviews the Department’s many restrictive work rules with the idea of improving the productivity of DWP’s workforce over the next four years. This would include staffing policies, contracting out, overtime premiums, sick pay, and other areas to be determined through greater disclosure and transparency.
The five Commissioners must also push to get a better understanding of the cost of DWP’s healthcare plan and the level of employee contributions. Based on preliminary information, the DWP healthcare bill is over $17,000 a year for each employee, representing a mind blowing 50% to 70% premium to other City workers.
City Hall has also used our Department of Water and Power as a piggy bank, ranging from numerous “pet projects” of the Councilmembers and the Mayor to the $250 million, 8% Transfer Fee from the Power System to the City’s General Fund. Rather than letting this looting of DWP continue, the Board needs to investigate the legality of the Transfer Fee as a result of the passage of Proposition 26 (the Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act) in November of 2010. They also need to document the extensive list of pet projects that are being funded by the beleaguered Ratepayers.
The Board also needs to get a better understanding of the Power Reliability Program (dubbed by some as the “pole replacement program”) and whether it is meeting its stated goals in restoring the Power System’s aging and increasingly unreliable infrastructure in a timely manner.
There are many other areas where the Board needs to step up to the plate to make sure the Ratepayers are not being fleeced, whether it is the higher rates for utility built renewables, the $250 million above market cost associated with 100 megawatt Feed in Tariff pilot program, or the DWP pension trustees dropping their litigation against the City involving the dumping of $200 million of unfunded pension liabilities on the Ratepayers.
During the Villaraigosa era, the Water and Power Commissioners did what they were told and did not protect the Ratepayers and their wallets from Union Bo$$ d’Arcy, the City Council, and their cronies that roam the halls of City Hall. But now that we have a new mayor that is not beholden to the Bo$$, it is time for the new Commissioners to establish their independence and step up to the plate and do what is right for the Department and its Ratepayers.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: email@example.com. Hear Jack every Tuesday morning at 6:20 on McIntyre in the Morning, KABC Radio 790.)
Vol 11 Issue 79
Pub: Oct 1, 2013