Opinion Opinion L.A.

Judge in DWP case: The public should know how public money is spent

DWP union boss Brian D’Arcy had his day in court Tuesday and lost. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant denied the request from D’Arcy and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, to block subpoenas issued by City Controller Ron Galperin.

Galperin is trying to audit two joint Department of Water and Power and IBEW nonprofits that have received $40 million in ratepayers funds over the last decade with virtually no public accounting for how that money was spent. The trusts are supposed to address safety and training issues for the utility's workers.

D’Arcy has refused to turn over financial records or allowed himself to be interviewed by Galperin’s auditors. Instead he went to court.

But Chalfant said pretty much what everyone else has been saying: “This is all about knowing where your money went,'' Chalfant said, according to City News Service. “I don't see how the city controller doesn't have that authority.”

The judge also included a justified dig at DWP managers for providing no supervision and exerting little control over the nonprofits’ spending.

"This failure is serious and has resulted in well-warranted public scrutiny as to how $40 million of public funds was spent," Chalfant wrote, according to The Times.

I would add that the failure should also extend to the previous mayors and council members who voted to fund the trusts and ignored news reports from nearly a decade ago that raised concern about nonprofits' lack of transparency.

But that was a different time for D’Arcy. He backed Antonio Villaraigosa over incumbent James Hahn and then enjoyed a close relationship with the new mayor. In the last election, however, D’Arcy and IBEW supported Garcetti’s opponent and this time the new mayor made DWP reform a top priority and pledged to take on the IBEW’s entrenched power within the utility. 

The question now is whether D’Arcy will continue his fight against Galperin’s audit and against revealing how public money was spent despite the judge’s ruling and the city’s political leaders' unwillingness to yield on this one. The answer, unfortuntately, is most likely yes.

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