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L.A. hit with another legal claim in DWP case, with claims of ‘wrongful acts and omissions’

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power building. A DWP ratepayer has filed a new claim against the city over alleged actions stemming from the utility’s 2013 billing debacle.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A onetime Department of Water and Power customer whose lawsuit over his inaccurate bill triggered an FBI investigation at City Hall has filed a new claim against the city.

Attorneys for Antwon Jones say in the claim that the city of Los Angeles — including the DWP and city attorney’s office — knowingly encouraged and participated in the “wrongful acts and omissions” by attorney Paul Paradis and others to defraud him.

The city and others also breached their fiduciary duties to Jones, according to the claim, “unjustly enriching themselves” at his expense.

Jones filed his claim last week. Claims are typically submitted at City Hall before the filing of a lawsuit and are lodged to preserve a claimant’s right to sue. The filing lists damages of over $25,000 and includes accusations of unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, emotional distress and more.

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Jones’ filing comes as City Hall is reeling over FBI raids last week tied to the city’s response to the disastrous rollout of DWP’s customer billing software in 2013.

The ongoing controversy first ensnared Jones several years ago, according to court documents.

Jones, according to the filing, retained attorney Paradis for a lawsuit after he received a $1,374 electric bill in 2014 from the utility — far more than what he had been paying for service. A settlement in Jones’ class-action lawsuit against the city was announced in 2015 and approved by a judge two years later.

Court documents in a related lawsuit revealed that Jones didn’t know that attorney Paradis also had been retained by City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office. Paradis worked for the city on a lawsuit against PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting firm that implemented the DWP’s billing software, and consulted on the Jones case.

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Paradis also secured $36 million in no-bid contracts from the DWP to help remedy the billing problems — work that was tied to the settlement in the Jones case.

The FBI raid last week at Feuer’s office was focused on that settlement and the case against PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Jones hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. His attorneys, Jeff Isaacs and Paige Shen, declined to comment Wednesday on the filing.

Paradis’ attorney also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The New York lawyer denied wrongdoing earlier this year.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for Feuer’s office, said that “Mr. Jones’ allegations against the city are completely without merit.”

Separately, attorneys for DWP customer Dennis Bradshaw on Wednesday filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against the city, Feuer and attorneys involved in the Jones lawsuit, alleging professional malpractice, unjust enrichment and more.

Bradshaw, a Los Angeles renter and DWP customer, received a credit to his December 2017 bill as part of the Jones settlement. His suit alleges that Jones’ attorneys and the city colluded to deprive class members of their rights in that case.

Bradshaw’s attorney, Filippo Marchino, said in an interview that the lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

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In response, Wilcox said the suit is “completely full of misrepresentations and falsehoods when it comes to the city and the city attorney’s office.”

Fraud allegations surrounding the settlement of the Jones case prompted the court this year to appoint new attorneys to represent ratepayers. Those attorneys said in a court filing last week that the settlement is “suspect” and the agreement needs to be reexamined and possibly reworked.

This week, attorneys for the city submitted a declaration by the mediator in the Jones case.

“The settlement terms are fair, reasonable, adequate and an excellent outcome for all concerned due to the fact that all ratepayers filing claims will receive 100% of any overcharge,” wrote retired Judge Dickran M. Tevrizian.

After last week’s FBI raids, DWP General Manager David Wright — who had worked closely with Paradis — stepped down. Three other employees, including Chief Administrative Officer Donna Stevener, also left the utility, a DWP spokesman confirmed.

A excerpt of a federal search warrant reviewed by The Times showed that investigators were seeking evidence about a wide array of possible crimes, including bribery, kickbacks and violations of electric reliability standards — rules meant to ensure that electricity keeps flowing to customers.


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