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Council Vetoes Bid to Cancel DWP Pact

Finances: The city controller wanted to complete an audit before public relations contract for green power program was approved.

June 19, 2002|SEEMA MEHTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles City Council vetoed Controller Laura Chick's efforts to kill a multimillion-dollar public relations contract for the Department of Water and Power.

Earlier this month, Chick asked DWP commissioners to hold off on approving the $2.4-million deal with the Lee Andrews Group to provide community outreach for the green power program until she completed an audit next month of the $60-million public benefits program, which funds the contract.

The agency refused, saying that it was imperative to keep conservation programs visible as the city enters the energy-intensive summer months. Chick then urged the council to take control of the contract.

Seizing jurisdiction over the DWP's approval required 10 of 15 council members' votes. On Tuesday, the council voted 7 to 7 to take up the matter.

The PR firm will work with community-based organizations to spread the DWP's message on renewable energy, conservation, energy efficiency and other environmental issues through May 31. The contract includes an optional one-year, $2.4-million extension.

Last week, dozens of environmentalists, religious leaders, businesspeople and others packed council chambers to support the contract.

Councilman Jack Weiss, who sponsored the motion to kill the contract, said it was improperly turned into a referendum on the environmental program, rather than on DWP spending habits. "People tried to spin this that if you vote for the ... motion, you're against green power," he said.

Weiss had offered a compromise, asking the DWP to change to a month-to-month contract until the audit is completed.

DWP commissioners canceled the meeting where such a move could have taken place, saying that they lacked quorum.

DWP General Manager David Wiggs reiterated that the contract has a 30-day termination clause and will be revisited after the audit, which convinced some council members to vote against getting involved.

"I have complete confidence that if the audit comes back with something questionable," DWP commissioners will look into it, Councilwoman Janice Hahn said.

"I don't feel we need to go and be [such] micromanagers," she said.

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