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California

Former DWP security chief’s suit alleges he was fired for exposing illegal acts

Department of Water and Power
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power building in downtown Los Angeles.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A former security chief at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is suing the municipal utility, alleging that he was fired for complaining about security gaps and illegal actions by other employees.

Patrick Findley, who oversaw security and emergency management, was terminated earlier this year. His ouster came shortly after the release of a confidential report that pinpointed security vulnerabilities at three power stations, spurring concern at City Hall.

In his lawsuit, Findley says he had told the authors of that report, Navigant Consulting, that facility managers had ignored his concerns about malfunctioning security systems, scant lighting and other problems — revelations that proved embarrassing to the agency after reporters obtained an unredacted version of the study.

Findley also claims that he repeatedly complained to his supervisors about illegal activity by other employees, including burglarizing a department facility, skipping out on work, and ordering other employees to do tasks for the personal benefit of their bosses rather than to assist the utility.

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In one case, Findley claimed, an employee used a department vehicle for personal purposes and then filled out a false police report claiming it had been stolen from their home after the department had to remove it from a casino parking lot.

In addition, Findley told an independent group doing an audit for the city controller that utility employees had drawn up contract specifications and then successfully bid on the work themselves using “dummy companies,” as well as other unlawful acts, the lawsuit claims.

The former security chief alleges that the DWP failed to act on his concerns and thwarted his investigations, instead firing him despite an “impeccable record” with the utility.

The lawsuit specifically claims that David Wright — a utility executive who was recently tapped by Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve as the DWP’s interim general manager — was unable to give Findley a reason for his termination in January.

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DWP spokesman Joseph Ramallo said in a written statement Thursday that the utility had not yet been served with the complaint, which was filed Wednesday.

Nonetheless, “we strongly disagree with any allegation of retaliation and with the assertions Mr. Findley has made in his lawsuit,” Ramallo said. “This is an employment and legal matter and we cannot provide further comment.”  

The Los Angeles Daily News first reported on the security concerns raised in the unredacted Navigant report earlier this year.

emily.alpert@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter at @LATimesEmily

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