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City Controller’s Grandstanding DWP Audit is the Real Waste of Ratepayer Dollars

JUST THE FACTS-City Controller Ron Galperin’s Grandstanding DWP Audit results were finally released. Unfortunately, the conclusion and political spin that came afterwards from the controller was misleading.  Here are the FACTS: 

The DWP’s Joint Training Institute and Joint Safety Institute are administered by DWP managers and representatives of the DWP’s IBEW Union and funded by DWP revenues. When the controller’s long-anticipated audit was finally released to the media and public, it was revealed as the politically motivated document it was. 

Galperin cast himself as hero, trying to take on the  Department of Water and Power’s IBEW labor union, which he implied were playing dirty. But not only did Galperin fail to score the kind of political pelt that could pad his future career he actually wound up doing what he claimed he was trying to stop – wasting taxpayer dollars in frivolous legal fees and audit costs to fund his politically motivated witch hunt. 

The Office of the Controller utilized Auditors, City Attorney’s office, LAPD and Criminal Courts to take on the IBEW with all guns blazing.  This was going to be the canon fire that would blast a critical round into the heart of the IBEW Union and bring it crying to its knees.  It was a fight with one fighter raging mad as hell and fuming and pushing to show everyone what a great public servant he is and how he is digging deep to uncover corruption and millions of wasted tax dollars by the IBEW Union and its leadership. 

The IBEW leadership resisted and fought the Controller since IBEW leaders did not believe that they had done anything illegal or wrong.  After litigation and city council intervention, the audit did not quite turn out as the controller planned. Instead, it found no ILLEGAL or CRIMINAL activity ever took place during the time the training program was in existence.  

The audit did disclose that the $40 million was given over a period of 10 years.  That comes out to $4 million dollars a year for safety and training programs administered JOINTLY  by the Department of Water and Power and the Union.  This program is in addition to the $100 million dollars the DWP annually spends on safety and training programs for their employees.  It was not like the IBEW took $40 million a year and wasted it on parties or illegal activity.  

If you look closely at the audit – not the politically charged press release -  the biggest complaint is that the Trusts have not spent enough money. The major concern is over the trusts “excessive cash reserves.” So, which is it. Are they spending like drunken sailors or not spending enough? The audit did its best to suggest both, which is just silly.

Much of the language is overtly political and made to grab headlines. But upon closer look, the total amount of unreported income over the five years in question is $86,000. You’re talking trusts with a $4 million annual budget, and with balances of $11.3 million. The $86,000 in question is 0.43% of the total they have received during those five years.

When scrutinized, the audit did reveal that some IBEW representatives attended conferences in other states, engaged in training programs then dined on  steakhouse dinners after  training.  Of course, the Controller’s office did have to pay for out-of-town auditors to fly down and stay in our city. No word on what was on their dinner menus.  

In looking back at my eight years as a police union director with the police protective league, I attended conferences in other states and at times dined on a steak dinner after a training session. It was not and is not improper, illegal or unethical to dine on a steak after attending a training session unless you are a vegan. 

When the Training and Safety funds were established for the IBEW and DWP, the DWP, city council and Mayor publically approved them.  If any conditions were imposed and violated, there would be violations for the Controller and City Attorney to handle by a legal or administrative process.  NONE were discovered and no corrective action has or will be taking place.  

In the end, Galperin’s witch-hunt was simply about political retribution. It is the controller, not the Trusts that are wasting taxpayer dollars by duplicating audit efforts already underway by the City’s Chief Administrative Officer. The week the audit was made public, Controller Galperin issued a check to continue to fund the Trusts so if there were so many concerns, why would Galperin do that? 

The DWP is the largest municipal utility in the United States.  It provides water and power to over 4 million city residents,  business locations and some surrounding communities.  The DWP employs near 9,000 employees and has an annual budget of over $ 4.5 billion dollars. 

With the large number of DWP employees, it is critical that on going in-service training programs be administered by the department.  When a joint venture is instituted by the city bringing management and the union together to benefit the safety and performance of the employees, everyone benefits.  

I have personally witnessed DWP employees in the underground vaults during rainstorms (when we had rain) and working in other dangerous situations.  In-service training is critical for both the employees and the public that receives the power and water from the DWP.  

Some have  already criticized the IBEW’s leadership and training and safety funds.  It is easy to jump on the bandwagon and find fault with the IBEW when their leadership resists the demands of the Controller.   This has created a mob mentality by many.  

I have chosen to examine this matter in an objective fashion utilizing THE Audit FACTS.  The FACTS are clear.  No Criminal Violation is alleged and no criminal filing has taken place.  No Violation of City Policy and No DWP Rules or Regulations have been violated.  

Since we are a society of laws, rules and regulations, the Controller’s audit fails to bring anything other than speculation to the public arena on this matter.  In the future when any city department establishes a fund to be administered by an employee group, guidelines need to be included in the document to prevent any questionable inappropriate use of city funds. 

If the Controller wants to perform an audit to correct a serious financial matter, he should look into the DWP’s billing system that is failing to collect hundreds of millions in dollars of outstanding debt.  That is real money that can be collected if and when the billing system is corrected. 

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On this Memorial Day weekend, we should all remember our Brave Military Personnel that keep all of us safe in America.

 

(Dennis P. Zine represented the 3rd Council District from 2001-2013. He was an officer with the LAPD for 28 years. He continues to serve as an LAPD reserve officer. Dennis is a CityWatch contributor. He welcomes your comments at: Zman8910@aol.com. Opinions are those of the author and do not reflect the views of CityWatch or the owners of CityWatch.) 

-cw