Twin trusts run jointly by the Department of Water and Power and its powerful union are spending more than $3 million a year on salaries, travel and office expenses, according to tax returns reviewed by KPCC.
The two trusts have received more than $40 million from the utility since being established more than a decade ago.
The Joint Safety Institute was created in 2000 by the Los Angeles City Council. Two years later, it was joined by the Joint Training Institute. Besides having nearly identical names, the agencies have the same trustees, same accountant, the same address and phone number. The trusts, which have tax exempt status, have office space at the DWP's Valley Steam Plant in Sun Valley. A security guard confirmed to KPCC that the institutes are on the property, but would not allow a producer to visit the office.
In 2011, the most recent tax return available (see below), the Joint Training Institute's included $348,000 on salaries and $46,000 on office expenses. Another $631,000 was spent on reimbursed administrative expenses and $663,000 was spent on unknown expenses.
That same year, the second trust, the Joint Safety Institute, spent more than $128,000 on its salaries and $69,000 on office expenses. Combined, the institutes spent about $140,000 on travel in 2011. And records show both entities are paying $23,000 a year to rent space at the DWP lot. It's unclear how many employees each of the trusts employ.
A voicemail left at the phone number listed for both groups was not returned Wednesday.
Mayor Eric Garcetti met with DWP General Manager Ron Nichols Tuesday to discuss the two groups. Nichols is one of seven trustees for both institutes. Brian D'Arcy, who heads the DWP's union — International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18 — is another one.
"I am calling on my new DWP commission to seek full disclosure of all spending by these two organizations, and to explore all legal avenues to account for every ratepayer dollar spent," Garcetti said in a statement. Garcetti's newly-appointed commissioners meet for the first time next week.
DWP officials have already provided the mayor's office with details on how much the utility has given the trusts since 2000 — a total of $41 million.
In a letter to Councilman Felipe Fuentes (see below), chair of the council's Energy and Environment Committee, D'Arcy wrote that the groups were created because DWP's training and safety programs were "inefficient" and "expensive."
"The results speak for themselves. We have industry leading Safety and Training curriculum and programs and are proud of what has been accomplished to date," D'Arcy wrote.
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that the DWP has little information on how the funds have been spent. Questions about how the institutes operate have been circulating for years, as reported by the L.A. Weekly in 2005.