Review of DWP Chief Is Sought

Times Staff Writer

After a year of controversy over spending by the Department of Water and Power, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Thursday for the agency's governing board to begin a performance evaluation of its general manager.

A letter from Villaraigosa details 37 goals and issues that should be considered in evaluating Ron Deaton, who was appointed to head the DWP in November 2004 by then-Mayor James K. Hahn.

"It's a blueprint of what we expect of him," said DWP board member Nick Patsaouras.

The review is required by the City Charter, but the timing drew more attention to the department, which has been embarrassed in recent weeks by reports of buying bottled water, paying for writing classes and supporting an expensive employee exercise facility.

Mayoral spokesman Joe Ramallo said similar letters are going to the airport and harbor departments.

"It's not meant to single out any individual or department," he said. "It is meant to encourage strong management and accountability and to ensure that the commissions are talking about the goals they have."

The last time Villaraigosa publicly talked about the performance of a general manager, the mayor ended up firing Animal Services Department administrator Guerdon H. Stuckey weeks later. A source close to the mayor who spoke on condition of anonymity said Villaraigosa does not have the same concerns about Deaton.

The mayor's letter went to board President Mary Nichols, who said she was unaware of any effort to force Deaton out. Nichols said Deaton has a three-year contract that lasts through the end of 2007.

Deaton said he has no plans to retire this year, but the City Hall veteran will be 65, the typical retirement age, in two years.

Still, one of the goals spelled out by the mayor in his letter is "develop plan for management succession."

That may include other managers. Assistant General Manager Thomas Hokinson is retiring, and others are rumored to be considering retirement.

Nichols said an evaluation is an important tool toward "getting our house in order."

"It's designed to address the perception of a gap between the policy that the mayor and council lay out and what actually happens," she said.

Deaton said he appreciated the mayor putting goals and objectives in writing.

"We've made some progress," he said. "I think there is a lot to do. The things he has in this letter are important."

The mayor called for the evaluation to be done by June 30 and to include the progress that Deaton has made toward Villaraigosa's goal of having 20% of the DWP's electricity produced by clean, renewable sources, such as wind, sun and geothermal power, by 2010.

He also wants the commission to consider the system's reliability. He called for a follow-up review to the Sept. 12, 2005, power outage that left half of Los Angeles without electricity.

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