It's both fitting and surprising that union chief Brian D'Arcy would use an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times to publicly weigh in for the first time on how two nonprofit trusts jointly run by his union and the Department of Water and Power spent $40 million in ratepayer funds. Until now, D'Arcy, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, has refused to release any financial documents from the trusts, prompting City Controller Ron Galperin to subpoena the records for an audit.
The Op-Ed is fitting because D'Arcy controlled the message and proposed his own (self-serving) solution to the standoff between himself, Galperin and Mayor Eric Garcetti over the trusts' funding. But it was surprising that he would turn to The Times, which exposed the trusts last fall, has doggedly investigated the issue and opined that D'Arcy is wrong to withhold the documents.
It's unlikely D'Arcy's overture will "clear the air," as he wrote. He wants John Van de Kamp, a former state attorney general, to work with the district attorney's office to facilitate "a full examination of the trusts' funds." OK, but the district attorney is a peripheral party here. The call for an accounting of the trusts' spending came from Galperin and Garcetti's DWP commissioners. Galperin is looking at whether the spending has been appropriate and if the trusts perform their mission. The D.A.'s office will look to see if a crime was committed by the trusts' administrators. But spending can be questionable, unwise or wasteful without being illegal.
Plus, the new documents posted on the IBEW's website are not exactly the "comprehensive audit report" D'Arcy described. It's an audit of the trusts' financial positions: their revenue, expenses and how much they spent in broadly defined categories such as "training workshops and expenses" ($474,705) and promotional merchandise ($50,992.) The audit is not particularly enlightening if city officials want to know if the workshops or merchandise were legitimate in the first place. Maybe they were. Maybe they weren't. That's what the controller's audit is supposed to assess.
So, the impasse will likely continue. If anything, D'Arcy's Op-Ed signals that this fight over transparency and control of the DWP is nowhere close to resolution. He did not hide his contempt of the city leadership, questioning if the DWP commissioners were capable and whether the utility had "sufficiently rigorous standards for leadership." D'Arcy is digging in his heels, as are Galperin and Garcetti.