Represent!

Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Fight over $40 million in DWP union money enters new phase

LA City Controller Ron Galperin, center, is joined by Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, and City Attorney Mike Feuer, right, to discuss a dispute over $40 million in DWP controlled money.
LA City Controller Ron Galperin, center, is joined by Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, and City Attorney Mike Feuer, right, to discuss a dispute over $40 million in DWP controlled money. Alice Walton/KPCC

Superior Court Judge James Chalfant is expected Tuesday to issue an order that requires the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute to submit to an audit by City Controller Ron Galperin. DWP management and the union that represents DWP workers – IBEW Local 18 – operate the institutes.

Chalfant already has rejected arguments by the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Election Workers) that the institutes are private, non-profits, and that there is no obligation to turn over financial records. “This is the city trying to manage its departments,” the judge said in a decision three weeks ago.

Notably, the judge also rejected IBEW’s request to place a hold on any order while the ruling is appealed.

The order is something of a formality. The judge must approve an agreement between the city and lawyers for the release of the institutes’ financial information.

But this is a huge turning point in a months-long pitched battle between Galperin and the city’s most powerful union, which has refused to hand over documents related to the institutes. It’s certainly a defeat for IBEW Local 18’s longtime leader, business manager Brian D’Arcy. (The link is a rare TV interview with D'Arcy entitled "The Price of Power".)

The ruling is “an important step in holding accountable those who think they're above the law," Galperin said. “Mr. D’Arcy must comply with all requests made by my auditors in a timely manner.”

That’ll be a switch for D’Arcy. He’s refused to even meet with the Galperin, according to the controller

The city's given the institutes more than $40 million over the past decade. Tax returns obtained by KPCC show they are spending more than three million dollars a year on salaries, travel and office expenses.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has pointed to the dispute over the money as one reason to delay any water and power rate increases this year – a delay he said is designed to regain the public's trust in the DWP. Its worth noting IBEW and its affiliates spent $2 million trying to defeat Garcetti in last year's mayor's race.

The controller can begin his audit ten days after the judge's order.  

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