The leader of the Department of Water and Power’s largest union slammed Mayor Eric Garcetti and the utility’s brass Friday for going live with a new billing system before it was ready.
Brian D’Arcy, the head of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, also accused DWP managers of hiding the true cost of the new system, saying it’s more than double the $59 million that the utility has been citing.
Internal department estimates show “almost $150 million spent on this failed effort,” D’Arcy wrote in a prepared statement. That includes a $4.5-million contract to Five Point Partners to oversee contractors and ensure "problems like this did not occur.”
“The city’s management decided to ‘go live’ on the system despite the high likelihood for a failure of this nature,’' D’Arcy said. He laid the blame on Garcetti, DWP Commission President Mel Levine and DWP General Manager Ron Nichols, saying they owe ratepayers an apology.
The union and its affiliates spent $2 million supporting Garcetti’s opponent in this year’s mayor’s race, former City Controller Wendy Greuel. Recently, D’Arcy has been locked in a battle with Garcetti and DWP commissioners over the release of financial documents showing how a $4-million-a-year special fund for safety training is being spent. Neither Garcetti nor a representative of the DWP had immediate comment.
[Updated 5:04 p.m. Nov. 22: Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said the mayor has already ordered the DWP to install an automated call-back system so ratepayers don’t have to remain on hold with customer service. That system is supposed to go into place next week, Millman said.
“Mayor Garcetti was elected to fix the problems at DWP,” Millman said. “The voters rejected the union’s control of the DWP and the union should stop the political games because the campaign is over.”]
DWP phone lines and offices have been jammed since the new billing program went live in early September. Residents say their water and power bills are inaccurate, late or simply never arrive. And when they try to get help, it takes as long as 40 minutes to get a customer service representative.
In his statement Friday, D’Arcy noted ratepayers “still aren’t getting answers about why they are being harassed with service termination notices, despite not receiving their bills,’' D’Arcy said. “The current situation is so dire that employees feel threatened by the hostile environment that has resulted from this epic failure.”
DWP executives this week acknowledged that the new system has been plagued with problems. Campbell Hawkins, director of customer service, told a City Council committee this week that the public utility is working to resolve glitches.
It will take four to six months to resolve the major problems and up to two years to get the system fully functioning, Hawkins told the council’s Energy and Environment Committee.