On a 15-0 vote, the council confirmed four new commissioners at the Department of Water and Power: former U.S. Rep. Mel Levine, political consultant Jill Banks Barad, attorney William Funderburk Jr. and foundation director Michael Fleming. The four will join Christina Noonan, who was appointed to the panel three years ago by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Before the vote, Councilman Bernard C. Parks advised the group to look into the DWP's employee healthcare plan, saying its costs have "spiraled out of control." Councilman Paul Krekorian asked the quartet to promise that any side agreements approved by the board for the utility's workforce also go before the council for review.
"Over the course of decades, this department has entered into transactions with its employees that this council has never been aware of, that … never came before this council," Krekorian said. "That just can never happen."
The Times has reported in recent weeks about DWP employee work rules, including one that has required the agency to pay employees unlimited extra sick days and another that forces the utility to offer overtime pay when outside contractors are hired.
Barad, founder of the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils, said she and her colleagues would work closely with the utility's ratepayer advocate, who reviews proposed rate increases, and reach out to the city's businesses. "We must have transparency. We must be able to look inside DWP," she told the council.
Wednesday's vote comes a few weeks after a tug of war between Garcetti and council members over a proposed contract with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, the union that represents most DWP employees. Members of the union are now casting ballots on that proposal, which would provide zero raises for three years and a 2% pay hike in 2016.
Garcetti said last month that the new DWP commission would help him "shake up the status quo" at the city-owned utility. His appointees replaced four Villaraigosa commissioners: Thomas Sayles, Jonathan Parfrey, Richard Moss and Eric Holoman.