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City Refuses to Pay DWP Consultant's Billing for $74,000

August 31, 2004|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles city controller Monday refused to pay $74,000 to Lee Andrews Group, a consulting firm hired to promote Department of Water and Power programs, objecting that the company's invoices were not specific.

Citing the same reason, City Controller Laura Chick recently rejected invoices from public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard for its DWP work.

The department decided not to extend contracts for both firms after the city's public relations spending came under criticism and a federal grand jury subpoenaed the records of Fleishman-Hillard as part of an investigation into contracting at the municipal utility.

In turning down the invoices that Lee Andrews Group submitted in June and July, Chick wrote to the DWP that the firm must resubmit its bills "in a format that specifies the services, products or deliverables that were provided."

Chick also asked Henry Martinez, the DWP's acting general manager, to have the company submit reports summarizing the tasks completed and work remaining. Martinez said he would look into Chick's complaints.

The rejected invoices include 23 hours of work billed by company President Donna Andrews at $218 per hour in May for "strategic planning" and "administration." Other workers at the firm billed for the same services at rates ranging from $56 to $200 per hour.

And the invoices included $45,000 for "planning and coordination of business breakfasts."

Another Lee Andrews Group employee submitted a bill for three hours for attending a business breakfast on an economic development program. She also billed for tasks labeled "coordinated new contact list from database" for that program.

Andrews said wrap-up reports outlining what the firm has done are provided each month to the DWP, so she was "perplexed" why Chick would say more information is needed.

"All of this documentation is out there for anybody who wants to read it," she said.

Chick's office said that only the invoices were submitted for payment, and that the backup material was insufficient.

Chick's letter came two weeks after a DWP audit found that the Lee Andrews Group spent $332,000 more than had been authorized by the agency.

That audit criticized DWP staff for not accurately writing task letters. A task letter includes the scope of work to be done and the amount authorized to be billed on a specific project.

The billings are part of a $4.8-million contract to provide advertising, communication, community outreach and media relation services to promote the DWP's green-power program.

The contract expired in May and not all of the money was spent.

The DWP board approved the contract two years ago despite a request by Chick to delay action so that she could audit agency spending on the green-power program.

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