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DWP union tries new tack to block release of payroll data

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employees union on Friday demanded that agency officials sit at the bargaining table with them before publicly releasing workers’ names and salaries.

In a grievance filed Friday, union representatives claimed that next week's planned release of the data to the Los Angeles Times would violate their contract, if it occurs prior to formal labor discussions.

The Times requested five years of the department’s payroll data in February. The DWP union is by far the single-largest source of cash in the run-up to the May 21 mayoral election, having given $1.45 million to an independent effort to elect Wendy Greuel, now the city controller. On Thursday, Greuel called on the DWP to release the data "as quickly as possible."  

William Carter, chief deputy to the city attorney’s office, which advises the DWP, dismissed the grievance on Friday, saying the department has a legal obligation to be transparent and that the release of pay information, “would not violate any labor agreements.”  

That’s similar to the response Carter gave Wednesday when the union filed a separate lawsuit against the DWP governing commission, seeking to block release of the data. 

Payroll data is routinely released by government agencies across California, including the city of Los Angeles.

The union argues it needs more time to determine if any individual members could be in danger after their information becomes public. In rare cases, courts have allowed information to be withheld for undercover police officers and employees with restraining orders against violent stalkers.

A Times analysis of 2-year-old DWP payroll data, with no employee names included, showed the average total pay for the agency's more than 10,000 workers was $99,381 in 2011. That was more than 50% higher than the average pay for other city workers, and about 25% higher than employees at comparable public and private utilities, records show.

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jack.dolan@latimes.com

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