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Nahai to be offered a consulting job at DWP

The utility wants its former general manager, who just resigned, to work through the end of the year as a consultant at his previous salary, nearly $6,300 a week.

October 06, 2009|David Zahniser

Officials at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power plan to give a consulting contract to the agency's outgoing general manager that would pay him the same salary he earned as its top executive.

Days after he resigned, H. David Nahai is slated to receive nearly $6,300 per week as a consultant to the utility. The DWP commission, whose five members are appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the plan.

DWP commission President Lee Kanon Alpert said he asked Nahai to stay on as a consultant for the rest of the year. Such arrangements are typical when there is a transition from one executive to another, Alpert said.

"There's nothing nefarious about it, nothing complex about it. This is a reasonable business decision, nothing more than that," Alpert said. "David's resigned, and we need his institutional knowledge for the next few months."

Nahai, whose annual salary at the DWP was $326,686, did not return a call seeking comment. If he stays on as a consultant at his current salary, he would earn nearly $82,000 by Dec. 31.

Councilman Dennis Zine criticized the proposal, calling it a sweetheart deal that would leave the DWP paying for two top executives, Nahai and his interim replacement. Zine said he would ask the council to take up the consulting proposal if it is approved by the DWP.

"Whoever came up with this should have their head examined," he said.

Acting DWP general manager Raman Raj said the matter was being handled by Alpert. Villaraigosa spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton provided a written statement, saying, "These are all decisions that will be made by the DWP commission, and the mayor has full confidence in the commission and its president."

The mayor has asked the commission to name Deputy Mayor S. David Freeman, a former DWP general manager, as the utility's top executive for the next six months. The DWP's media office did not respond to a request for Freeman's proposed salary.

When Nahai announced his departure on Friday, he said his resignation was effective immediately. In the weeks leading up to that announcement, he had lost significant support from Villaraigosa's office and had been under fire from the DWP's powerful employee union. Still, environmentalists continued to support him.

The new consulting proposal bears some similarities to a 2004 plan by former Mayor James K. Hahn's administration to give a departing executive at the Port of Los Angeles a contract paying $540,000 over three years. That plan drew so much fire that it was not approved.

Alpert said Nahai's contract does not require a vote by the commission.

Nevertheless, he said he wanted the matter on today's commission agenda for the sake of transparency.

Alpert gave differing answers, however, on how the consulting contract was developed. At one point, he said he personally asked Nahai to be a consultant. At another, he said he could not say who came up with the idea, calling such information "irrelevant."

"I concurred with the decision that was made," he said. "I was part of it. I concurred with it. It's something I think the commission would think was a good idea."

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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