Advocates of reforming the Department of Water and Power have new reasons to worry. That's because Mayor Villaraigosa today appointed Wally Knox to a top executive position at the department. An old chum of the mayor, Knox has loudly fought efforts to create a ratepayer advocate that would make the DWP more accountable for its controversial rate hikes, power outages and union pandering.

During his past tenure on the five-member commission that oversees the DWP, Knox displayed an almost bizarre allegiance to the power structure that has aggressively avoided transparency and, some would say, abused taxpayers. Political watchdog Ron Kaye called Knox a “DWP apologist.”

But Knox is an old hand at working the system. Just look at how he has spent the last six months: getting paid $17,000 a month at a position created for him by Villaraigosa.

In May, Knox ended his two-year tenure on the DWP board and took a $205,000-a-year gig as executive director of external affairs at the Port of Los Angeles. At the time, the L.A. City

Council unanimously objected

to Knox's lucrative position — which was created by the mayor — on the grounds that the Harbor Department and

the city were (and still are) strapped for cash. However, Knox got to keep his job on a temporary

basis while city officials sorted things out.

Now, having

collected $17,000 a month since May, Knox has resigned before his temporary job is up in December. But not because he

wants to save the city $34,000 over the next two months. Rather, because the City Attorney's

office is investigating a possible conflict of interest, since Knox's wife is a lawyer for the firm that represents port employee unions. 

So, what has Villaraigosa decided to do for his old pal? Send him back to the DWP to become director of external affairs — the same position he held at the Port. It's a cushy game of musical chairs for the former State Assemblyman.

It pays to have friends in high places. Because when things get ugly, there's always an empty, high-paying seat somewhere.

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