Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was shocked last week after learning that the L.A. Department of Water and Power cannot account for $40 million it has spent on two labor-management training institutes.
Though Garcetti voted to fund the trusts while on the city council — and probably should have known about their troubling secrecy many years ago — he said he was unaware of them and directed the leadership of DWP to get to the bottom of how the money has been spent.
Great, well a little late, but at least he's finally on it, right? Not necessarily. The problem is that Garcetti may be legally prohibited from disclosing how the money is spent.
The training institutes are governed equally by the DWP and by IBEW Local 18, the DWP union. Each side has equal representation on the two governing boards.
So in order to make the records public, the DWP would have to persuade the union to agree to go along with that. If they do not agree, the board would be deadlocked.
“Both labor and management need to be engaged on decisions,” said a source close to IBEW.
So far, Brian D'Arcy, the head of the union, hasn't shown a whole lot of interest in disclosure. In fact, as the L.A. Weekly reported all the way back in 2005, D'Arcy has gone to great lengths to thwart public disclosure of these records.
Ron Nichols, the general manager of DWP, has said he intends to seek disclosure of the records. However, he said at a DWP commission meeting today that would take an action by the training institute boards.
“It requires an action of the trust board to be able to release that information,” Nichols said today. “There is no reason for not having greater transparency on this… We will work with the other trustees, the labor trustees, to give you that transparency.”
In an interview with the Weekly on Monday, Commissioner Mel Levine said that while he was not up to speed on the “procedural niceties” involved, he believed the records should be made public.
“To me it's just very clear that ratepayer money was spent here,” Levine said. “Ratepayers are entitled to know where it was spent and how it was spent.”
The trust agreements have provisions that call for deadlocks to be resolved via mutually agreeable arbitration.
It's not clear if Garcetti wants to take his call for transparency that far. If he doesn't, it looks like it's up to D'Arcy to decide whether to release any information, and if so how much.