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L.A. Now Live: DWP nonprofits to audit themselves

October 17, 2013
  • Department of Water and Power Commission Vice President William W. Funderburk Jr., left, speaks to President Mel Levine during a meeting.
Department of Water and Power Commission Vice President William W. Funderburk… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Talk with Times reporter Jack Dolan at 9 a.m. about an upcoming audit of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Two weeks after demanding details on how two nonprofits run by the agency and its biggest union spent more than $40 million, the agency's commissioners changed tack Wednesday and agreed to let the groups audit themselves.

The five members of the panel, four of whom were recently appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, voted to give the groups, formed about a decade ago to help improve labor relations, a month to account for the expenditure of ratepayer funds. The commission also agreed to permit a CPA firm hired by the nonprofits to conduct the audit, rather than the city's elected controller.

The two nonprofits, the Joint Safety Institute and the Joint Training Institute, came under scrutiny last month after The Times reported that DWP officials claimed they had only scant information on the organizations' spending.

Garcetti and other elected officials, including Controller Ron Galperin, have been demanding detailed records on millions of dollars spent on salaries, travel and administrative expenses since The Times' report on the nonprofits in September. But so far the groups, whose governing body is jointly led by DWP General Manager Ron Nichols and electrical workers' union boss Brian D'Arcy, have not produced a detailed accounting.

According to city records, the institutes were created in the late 1990s to "identify" safety and training as core values and to promote "communication, mutual trust and respect" between DWP managers and the electrical workers union. They receive up to $4 million per year in ratepayer funds.

DWP Commissioner Jill Banks Barad said during Wednesday's meeting: "What I would like to know, and I think the public would like to know, is what exactly do these trusts do?"

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