Politics, government and public life for Southern California

LA city council president questions mayor's DWP union strategy

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As the City of Los Angeles continues its legal fight this week to force an audit of the Department of Water and Power union's training institutes, the president of the City Council is raising questions about Mayor Eric Garcetti's strategy.

“If it were me, I think I'd go about it a different way," LA City Council President Herb Wesson tells KPCC.

Until now, City Hall leaders have appeared united in their efforts to force the DWP's powerful labor union to cooperate with an audit of the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute. The union in part controls them along with the DWP. The city has handed more than $40 million to the institutes over the past decade.

“It’s time for all of this to end and for us to move forward,” Wesson says of the legal back and forth between union leader Brian D’Arcy and Mayor Garcetti.

Wesson says Garcetti and City Controller Ron Galperin should find a way to talk with D'Arcy in "an intelligent fashion" — rather than take him to court, as the city has.

"I just think if I would have had the opportunity to get engaged, maybe we would be further down the line," the council president says.

Wesson knows the union leader personally. Garcetti, on the other hand, has had a rocky relationship with D'Arcy, whose union spent big dollars opposing him in last year's mayoral election.

D'arcy has appealed a judge's ruling ordering him to hand over the trusts' financial documents. City Attorney Mike Feuer says an audit should move forward in the meantime.

"We think the ratepayers of the city have waited long enough," Feuer says. His office is expected to submit that argument to an appeals court Monday.

D'Arcy counters the audit should be put on hold until his legal challenge is resolved.

Tax returns obtained by KPCC indicate institute leaders are spending more than $3 million a year on salaries, travel and office expenses.

In his ruling, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said: “The Los Angeles City Controller has the authority … to perform an audit of the Trusts at any time to determine if the public money from the DWP is being spent legally, and for future reference by the City Council.” 

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