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With audit underway, he retires

DWP manager played a role in controversial nonprofits that spent millions since 2000.

November 08, 2013|Jack Dolan

A Los Angeles Department of Water and Power manager who played a role in two controversial department nonprofits is retiring amid an audit of how the organizations spent more than $40 million since 2000.

And DWP commissioners have asked the auditors to dig deeper into those nonprofits: The board initially wanted to see copies of any check written by the organizations for $5,000, but on Thursday they asked for copies of any check of $1,000 or more.

The two nonprofits, the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute, have received up to $4 million in ratepayer funds per year for more than a decade to improve relations between the city-owned utility and its largest employee union.

The money is jointly overseen by Brian D'Arcy, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, and Ron Nichols, general manager of the DWP.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, November 09, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
DWP nonprofits: In the Nov. 8 LATExtra section, an article about an audit of nonprofits associated with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said that Eric Garcetti became mayor last May. Although he won election in May, he did not become mayor until July 1.

The organizations operated largely off the public radar for years, but they came under intense scrutiny in September after The Times reported that the DWP could provide only scant information on how the ratepayer money has been spent, or what the organizations have accomplished.

After The Times' report, Eric Garcetti, who became mayor in May despite millions spent by the DWP union to elect his rival, vowed to get to the bottom of the nonprofits' spending.

When Garcetti's newly appointed DWP commissioners held their first meeting in early October, Chuck Kokoska, a DWP manager, was picked to explain the role of the organizations to the new board. It was not a command performance, and the meeting ended with several commissioners saying they still didn't understand what the groups do and the board demanding to see detailed records for more than $3 million of the organizations' recent spending.

Those records are still being gathered, but Kokoska's retirement was announced at the DWP commission meeting Thursday morning. Kokoska, listed in the DWP payroll database as an electrical service manager, made $265,400 in 2012. DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo said Kokoska was a former administrator of the Joint Training Institute and a management liaison to the organizations.

Kokoska did not respond to an emailed request for comment. But Ramallo said he had decided to retire earlier this year, well before questions came up about the two nonprofits.

On Wednesday, the city's chief administrative officer reported that the accident rate at the DWP had dropped from 8% to 5% since the inception of the Joint Safety Institute in 2000. But it is difficult to say how much of that reduction is attributable to the organization's activities, the report noted.

Tom Coultas, an official in the CAO's office who presented the report to various city officials this week, said the two nonprofits act as consultants and offer valuable advice to DWP managers. "The [nonprofits] are not out there on their own, they're not totally out of control or running amok," Coultas told the city's Energy and Environment Committee on Wednesday.

On Thursday, DWP Commission President Mel Levine praised Coultas' report but said he was still waiting for a detailed financial audit to answer to the question he asked in early October. "We still don't know how the money was spent, that's the bottom line," he said.

Union officials selected the CPA firm that has prepared the nonprofits' federal tax statements in the past to conduct that audit. Levine has asked for the results at the next commission meeting on Nov. 19.

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jack.dolan@latimes.com

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