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DWP's $40-million mystery fund deserves customer outrage, answers

DWP's $40-million mystery fund deserves customer outrage, answers
General Manager Ron Nichols is one of three DWP representatives on the boards overseeing the nonprofits. (Gina Ferazzi, Los Angeles Times)

The question is pretty straightforward.

What did $40 million in Los Angeles Department of Water and Power ratepayer money, directed to two nonprofits, pay for?

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The nonprofits won't say.

The DWP won't say.

Local 18 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents the majority of DWP employees, won't say.

"This is ratepayer money and they need to account for it," Jeff Millman, spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti, said to Times reporter Jack Dolan, who broke the story.

DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo told Dolan to ask the nonprofits.

A nonprofit executive who was paid $212,236 last year referred Dolan back to Ramallo.

Are they kidding?

"We provide services for the department. I'm not sure what else I can tell you," said the nonprofit administrator.

You could tell us what kind of services, for starters.

As Dolan reported, the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute, under the control of DWP and IBEW officials, are soaking up about $4 million a year in ratepayer funds for the purpose of, as Dolan put it, "improving relations with the utility's largest employee union." That being IBEW.

Improving relations? What are they talking about? And how about improving relations with ratepayers, who are subjected to one fiasco after another at DWP, where employees make far more than counterparts at other utilities and other city departments, and still don't pay a nickel toward healthcare premiums.

Garcetti's spokesman said the mayor will be meeting with DWP managers in coming days to sort it all out. But is there a good reason this can't be sorted out immediately?

If I were mayor, I'd tell DWP Chief Ron Nichols, IBEW boss Brian D'Arcy, and the nonprofit administrators to explain themselves by the end of the day Friday, or don't come back Monday.

That's $4 million a year, on top of all the other multimillion-dollar shenanigans exposed in recent months.

And did I mention that DWP rates will be going up soon?

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