Inviting powerful DWP union boss for a drink

You can add the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office to the long list of agencies and public officials going after one of the most powerful political players in the city.

A D.A. source told me Tuesday that prosecutors have renewed their interest in getting their hands on records being withheld by Brian D’Arcy, head of the largest union representing employees at the Department of Water and Power.

The D.A.'s office is working with City Controller Ron Galperin to figure out the “best way to obtain and examine” the records, I’m told. The goal is to determine whether there has been any criminal activity in connection with $40 million in ratepayer money that went to two nonprofit institutes aimed at promoting worker safety and training. D’Arcy has steadfastly refused to account for the money since city officials began demanding information last September.

That’s right, we’re five months into the standoff. It’s been three weeks since the city served a subpoena that D’Arcy is fighting in court, arguing that the institutes he oversees are exempt from having to comply.

It’d be one thing if he was stonewalling about $40 million in union dues. But that money came from DWP customers.


And if that doesn’t fry you, try this:

Not even the DWP knows how the money was spent.

That’s right, the electric company is in the dark.

This is like having the police or recreation department tell us yeah, they know we paid our taxes, but as for how they spent $40 million, our guess is as good as theirs.

Judging by how he’s handled this thing so far, I kind of doubt that D’Arcy is trembling over the D.A.'s interest in him. The city controller, the DWP commission, the DWP general manager who just quit in frustration and the media have all asked D’Arcy to produce the documents, and he’s had the same response for all of us.

Stuff it.

I want you ratepayers to know I’ve done my best to get the goods, making a standing offer to D’Arcy. If he agrees to an on-the-record conversation, I will bring his favorite cocktail.

D’Arcy has told me he likes a nice Guinness stout with a Jameson sidecar.

You busy right now, Brian? Wherever you are, I’ll bring the party.

Absent Mr. D’Arcy’s cooperation, I’ve been trying to reach out to his membership, Local 18 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

First I called and asked DWP employees what they thought about the way D’Arcy was handling this.

But I got stiffed.

Then I circled the utility’s headquarters up on Hope Street, hoping someone would give me a comment, send up a smoke signal, anything.


“I have no comment,” one woman said as she skated past me, and she was one of the talkative ones.

I don’t exaggerate when I tell you I’ve had better luck interviewing mobsters.

So I talked instead to City Hall insiders and observers, but none of them could explain what D’Arcy’s up to either.

Is he just kicking sand in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s face after bankrolling the losing mayoral campaign of Wendy Greuel?

Is it all about ego and power?

Does he have something to hide?

If that’s it, I want D’Arcy to know I can help. If there are questions about how the $40 million was spent, maybe a little creativity is called for. Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that 12 IBEW members enjoyed a lovely week in the Caribbean.

The explanation? Southern California is in the midst of a terrible drought, and so your crew was touring a desalination plant in Aruba.

Let’s say the problem is an embarrassing number of hotel receipts from Rio.

That’s easy. Brazil is fourth in the world in renewable-energy production, and D’Arcy’s crew had to inspect the solar-powered showers on Ipanema.

Even if nobody buys these explanations, isn’t it better than stonewalling?

“There’s a lot of discussion on what the heck he’s doing, and nobody can figure it out,” says exasperated former U.S. Rep. Mel Levine, head of the DWP commission.

People have always said about D’Arcy that his only objective is to represent the interests of his several thousand dues-paying members.

But here’s a news flash:

The public does not love D’Arcy or the DWP, and refusing to explain what he did with our $40 million is not going to help him or the rank-and-file.

“This makes the public sector look bad across the board, not just Local 18, and they’re already fighting a public opinion battle that hasn’t been going well for them the last four or five years,” said Jaime Regalado, former Cal State L.A. political science professor and onetime head of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs.

Even my councilman, Tom LaBonge, who has always supported D’Arcy, is losing patience.

“I like the guy and respect him, but you gotta show the records,” LaBonge said.

“There are too many good, hard-working people at DWP,” he added, “and they shouldn’t be tarnished.”

“I think it hurts everybody,” Levine said. “I think it’s worse for Brian and his union colleagues, and I say that with real regret as I’ve always been a real strong labor supporter.... And when a labor leader is as obstinate as he has been with regard to the simple disclosing of public funds, it’s terrible … to put it mildly.”

Shots and beers, Brian?