Tensions ran so high in the executive ranks of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power last year that the utility hired an organizational psychologist to sort out the ill feelings.
The psychologist received nearly $50,000 under a contract that required him to give only an oral report to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office. As a result, there is no written record, a DWP spokesman said.
But several sources said the psychologist found an intense battle between the two men attempting to carry out Villaraigosa's policies: then-General Manager H. David Nahai and Raman Raj, the No. 2 executive.
Since no one in the mayor's office would comment, the exact reason for hiring the outside firm is unclear. But a short time after the report was commissioned, Nahai resigned.
In separate interviews, Nahai declined to discuss his relationship with Raj, and Raj said he got along fine with Nahai. But former Deputy Mayor S. David Freeman, who handled environmental issues for Villaraigosa, had a different story. Freeman said Dr. Clinton McLemore, of San Juan Capistrano-based Relational Dynamics, was brought in to "figure out how to reduce the tensions" among the executive staff.
Nahai "was just a chronic complainer about [Raj]. And vice versa, I might add," Freeman said.
Nahai and Raj became the top two executives at the utility in November 2007. Both had raised money for Villaraigosa's 2005 mayoral campaign.
Nahai, a lawyer, had spent two years as a DWP commissioner but had never been a utility manager. Raj had worked as a DWP executive starting in 1999, but left two years later after the administration of then-Mayor Richard Riordan commissioned a report that recommended his ouster.
The report concluded that Raj had given Brian D'Arcy, the head of the DWP employee union, "too much influence in the management" of the utility and said Raj could not be trusted to "act in the department's interest" if they conflicted with his own.
Villaraigosa's office allowed Raj to return in 2007 with more authority: Department heads reported directly to him. After a year, Nahai decided to rework the organizational chart so that the managers answered to him. Villaraigosa's advisors blocked that move, Nahai said.
Nahai's stature was weakened further in 2009 after voters rejected a solar energy plan created by Villaraigosa and the DWP employees' union. Within weeks, Villaraigosa hired Freeman, a former DWP general manager who had campaigned for the solar measure, as his new deputy over the utility.
Freeman began scheduling meetings with top DWP officials that excluded Nahai, according to appointment calendars.
In August 2009, DWP executives — without Nahai's knowledge — signed a contract with Relational Dynamics to look at the utility's "executive organizational development." By then, Nahai had tried without success to persuade Villaraigosa's office to let him reassign Raj entirely, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
Nahai finally left the DWP in October.