Dodgy union ratbags rip off LA Water and Power

Labour held up the power system of Los Angeles as the model for NZ Power…did that model include dodgy union ratbags ripping of the power company?

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has directed an estimated $40 million in ratepayer money to two nonprofit groups charged with improving relations with the utility’s largest employee union, but the agency claims to have scant information on how the public funds have been spent.

The Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute, controlled by DWP managers and union leaders, have received up to $4 million per year since their creation more than a decade ago after a contentious round of job cutbacks at one of the nation’s largest municipal utilities.

Nearly all of the nonprofits’ money comes from DWP ratepayers, records show. About $1 million per year has been used to pay the salaries of a handful of administrators, according to the limited records the utility has provided to The Times under the California Public Records Act. Separate federal tax records offer only summaries of the organizations’ outlays, including more than $360,000 spent on travel from 2009 to 2011.

Officials at the nonprofits, the DWP and the employees’ union, Local 18 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, declined to be interviewed about the institutes’ activities and spending. 

Oh I bet they declined to be interviewed…they won’t be able to pull that with Police though.

After inquiries from The Times, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti said the mayor plans to meet with DWP managers in coming days to discuss the issue. “This is ratepayer money and they need to account for it,” Jeff Millman said.

Three representatives of the DWP, including General Manager Ron Nichols, serve on the boards overseeing the nonprofits. Three additional board members come from the union local, led by Business Manager Brian D’Arcy. Board members are not paid for their service.

DWP managers and union leaders have struggled to agree on uses for the money, apparently contributing to an accumulation of cash in the nonprofits’ accounts, records and interviews show. The two groups had $13.8 million on hand at the end of fiscal 2011-12, the most recent year for which the tax-exempt organizations’ IRS filings are available. The filings do not detail outlays. For example, they don’t indicate who traveled or where they went.

D’Arcy did not respond to requests for comment. An attorney for the union declined a request for records related to the nonprofits, arguing that the union is not subject to the requirements of the state Public Records Act.

The Los Angeles city controller’s office said it hasn’t audited the groups and the city clerk’s office noted that the nonprofits are not required to file financial reports with the city.

The institutes’ offices are located at a DWP facility in Sun Valley. But the utility’s official spokesman, Joe Ramallo, declined a request to help arrange a tour. “I don’t represent either entity,” he said, “Nor do I speak on their behalf.”

Ramallo directed a reporter to an electrical workers union website, which listed names and phone numbers for administrators at the nonprofits. Dan Scorza, a Joint Training Institute administrator who was paid $212,236 in 2012 according to DWP records, said, “We provide services for the department. I’m not sure what else I can say to you.” He referred questions back to Ramallo at the DWP.

A man who answered a phone listed for another institute employee, Joint Labor Management Administrator Jon Pokorski, who records show was paid $171,361 in 2012, hung up when a reporter identified himself. Voice messages left for two other employees were not returned.

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