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DWP chief wants his new advisor to keep state job too

Ex-Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez could earn $280,000 a year from an appeals board and the L.A. utility.

June 07, 2008|David Zahniser | Times Staff Writer

Former Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez made a splash earlier this week when the head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced that he was hiring her as his special advisor at a cost of $12,500 per month.

But even as she began a job that could pay her up to $150,000 per year, DWP General Manager H. David Nahai said Friday that he also wants Montanez to keep her other post -- as a member of the state's Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, which pays $130,000 annually.

Nahai said he does not believe the state job would distract Montanez from her duties at the DWP, where she will handle regulatory and legislative affairs.

"The appeals board, as you may know, is an engagement that is only one day a month," he said.

DWP Commission President Nick Patsaouras had a different view, saying Montanez, a Democrat, should not have such a lucrative side gig if her main job is to represent the utility in Sacramento.

"At that high level, it's not a part-time job, OK?" he said.

Montanez was named to the state board last year by then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) a few months after she dropped out of a Los Angeles City Council race against then-Assemblyman Richard Alarcon. In addition to the state appointment, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- who had endorsed Alarcon -- put Montanez on the city's Planning Commission, a volunteer post.

The city utility's hiring of Montanez, reported this week by the Los Angeles Daily News, was spelled out in a news release Thursday by the DWP. The release said Montanez "also has served as commissioner for the city of Los Angeles' Planning Department and state commissioner for the state of California, Unemployment Insurance Appeals."

The release did not mention that Montanez could possibly keep the latter post.

Officials said that City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo is trying to determine whether there are rules barring Montanez from staying on the state board. Still, Nahai said that state officials have already concluded that Montanez will have no conflict of interest if she holds both jobs.

Nahai has hired several other staffers with political backgrounds, including Joe Avila, a former chief of staff to Councilman Jose Huizar, and Kathy Jones Irish, a onetime chief of staff to Councilman Tom LaBonge who recently worked for MWH Americas, a firm with contracts at the DWP.

Avila's title is "staff assistant to the general manager"; Irish will handle economic development.

Although Avila and Irish are permanent employees, Montanez will serve as a consultant. After three months, her contract would be reviewed to see if it should be extended, Nahai said.

Nahai would not say whether Montanez will become a permanent employee, but he predicted big things for her. "I can't think of anybody as talented and knowledgeable and experienced as Cindy Montanez to take that position," he said.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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