Last Fall, I worked with my colleagues Bob Blumenfield, Felipe Fuentes,Paul Krekorian, and Council President Herb Wesson to broker the agreement that led to the audits of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Joint Safety Institute (JSI) and Joint Training Institute (JTI). The Mayor, City Controller, and City Council were understandably calling for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to open its books and explain how millions of dollars had been spent over the years. Ratepayers have been subsidizing these programs for more than ten years and until the audit released last week, there had never been an accounting of how the money was spent.
Because of the audit, we now know that $6.1 million in no-bid contracts were awarded, over $11 million dollars are being banked, and several administrators of the Trust --three of them union leaders-- are making
$220,000 per year with a $500 per month vehicle allowance. One administrator spent $30,000 on gasoline for a personal vehicle. The report details how money was spent on air travel, stays at luxury hotels, and other personal expenses, all of this coming out of a nearly $4 million yearly contribution from ratepayers who clearly have been duped.
It will take a lot of work to rebuild the trust with our ratepayers, and there’s only way to accomplish that; scrap the program entirely. The creation of the JSI and JTI took place more than ten years ago by previous political administrations and it has run its course.
Unfortunately, the payments to the Trusts are locked in to the current union contract which will expire in less than two years. Unless criminal wrongdoing can be determined from what we have learned of the disclosures, we will be stuck with this arrangement until the next contract is negotiated. I for one will demand that the Trusts be eliminated at that time. Restoring the faith in what I believe to be an exceptional Department with a rich history of serving the city well is my primary objective. I do not want this misuse of public funds to overshadow the work ahead to reach our ambitious sustainability goals for reducing energy and water consumption.
-Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell