Steve Lopez: DWP union boss’ $40-million excuse doesn’t add up

Brian D'Arcy, business manager for Local 18, an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), is photographed at their Los Angeles headquarters in May 2013.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

From the beginning, the five-month standoff between city officials and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s largest public employees union has been all about politics.

And the op-ed in today’s Times, by IBEW Local 18 boss Brian D’Arcy, is more political play than explanation as to what he and his henchmen have done with $40 million handed over to two nonprofits he oversees.

Seventy-five percent of the money has gone to training and safety programs and 25% to administration, D’Arcy said in “clearing the air.”



OK, but what kind of training and safety? Isn’t 25% overhead a little high? And should anyone trust the auditing of a company the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has retained previously, rather than a truly independent examination such as those D’Arcy has fought with muscle and lawyers?

D’Arcy now says he’s bringing in former L.A. Dist. Atty. John Van de Kamp to help the D.A.’s office look at the books. The extent to which IBEW comes clean remains to be seen, although I’m guessing D’Arcy’s motive wasn’t transparency but fear of a grand jury investigation.

My favorite part of D’Arcy’s op-ed is the convoluted argument that saying no to official requests for records is tantamount to a hypothetical in which Kaiser Permanente said no to a records request.

I wrenched my back just reading that.

Actually, D’Arcy holding on to records regarding use of ratepayer money is more akin to the LAPD telling us thanks for our tax dollars, but how they spent $40 million of it is going to be kept secret.

D’Arcy argues in his op-ed that the $40 million was anything but a slush fund, and that may well be true. But there is still no compelling argument for the existence of the nonprofits, since DWP spends vast sums each year on training and safety independent of the nonprofits.


With DWP, it’s always about power and politics, with D’Arcy having had his way for years, bankrolling political candidates who showed their love by delivering spectacular contracts in return, making D’Arcy one of the most powerful players the city has ever known. D’Arcy bet wrong last year, throwing millions behind Wendy Greuel for mayor, and now he’s trying to prove he won’t be pushed around just because of a bad bet.

Let’s not let City Hall off the hook, though, because D’Arcy would be powerless if not for it. Mayor and former councilman Eric Garcetti didn’t stand in the way of D’Arcy’s power grabs over the years. And as this paper has reported, Garcetti’s appointment of a new DWP assistant GM who was involved in a financial scandal years ago while overseeing DWP, and was also there when the nonprofits were established, is a head-scratcher.

Business and politics as usual in L.A.

Just be sure to read every line of your DWP statement closely, provided you get one, given the current billing-system debacle.

It’s DWP, Jake.


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