Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Metropolitan Water District OKs new ethics policy

metropolitan water distric

Photo by Joe Mud via Flickr Creative Commons

The MWD's new ethics policy eliminates the existing committee system for evaluating complaints.

A new ethics policy was approved Tuesday by the Metropolitan Water District, the billion-dollar public agency that oversees water for 19 million Southern Californians.

The policy makes the district’s ethics officer responsible for evaluating all complaints, which can range from alleged conflicts-of-interest to harassment. The old system allowed a committee that included the general manager, counsel and human resources to determine whether to move forward with a complaint.

The ethics proposal included up to $245,000 to hire an additional analyst and pay for outside investigators. The item was approved by about two-thirds  of the 37-member MWD board, which is made up of representatives from water agencies served by the district.

“This can really help us to create an independent process that is free of political influence, and I think that’s important for all of us,” said Leticia Vasquez, a member from the Central Basin Municipal Water District, which was recently subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in connection with an investigation into state Sen. Ron Calderon.

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New details on DWP contract emerge in negotiations

City Council Los Angeles

Mae Ryan/KPCC

New details on negotiations with the Department of Water and Power's union emerged Tuesday to show movement on the utility's health care and work rules. "There’s still things that you need to iron out and that’s what we’re doing now," says Council President Herb Wesson.

New details on the future of the Department of Water and Power’s health care and work rules emerged Tuesday as the Los Angeles City Council continued to negotiate a contract with the utility’s union.

The mayor has expressed his desire for more concessions from the union on work rules, and Monday night he took his case to a joint meeting of the city's neighborhood councils. 

"Clearly, there has been important progress," Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said in a statement. "We are reviewing the language that's on the table to make sure it achieves Mayor Garcetti's goals on DWP reform."

City Council President Herb Wesson believes a deal is on the horizon.

“We’re getting closer and you saw that movement within the past 48 hours,” said Wesson after emerging from a two-hour council session behind closed doors. “The council is optimistic that there will be a partnership with the mayor. You can feel it in the hair on the back of your neck.”

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Maven's Morning Coffee: DCFS needs more beds, Mayor Garcetti's first 50 days, Q&A with a councilman

jann_on/Flickr Creative Commons

The Board of Supervisors is expected to appoint a new acting assessor.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, votes and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

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Today is Tuesday, Aug. 20, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:

Headlines

The Board of Supervisors is expected to appoint Assistant Assessor Sharon Molleras as the acting county assessor, reports the Los Angeles Times.  Assessor John Noguez is currently facing 30 felony counts for allegedly accepting bribes and misusing public funds.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services is experiencing a shortage of beds for babies and toddlers, reports KPCC, and that is straining the system. A "(l)ack of flexibility in placements for children means less thoughtful placements ... more children placed far away from their birth families, which interferes with reunification efforts," according to the station.

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry loving California GOP again

Texas A&M v SMU

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The California Republican Party has announced Texas Governor Rick Perry, a possible 2016 presidential contender, will be the featured speaker at its Fall convention in Anaheim.

Possible 2016 presidential candidate Rick Perry travels to California in October as the featured speaker at the Republican Party’s state convention in Anaheim.

The Texas governor spent a lot of time raising campaign cash in the Golden State when he ran for the White House last year, only to stumble badly during GOP primary debates. Among other things, he could not remember the third federal department he wanted to eliminate. State GOP leaders appear willing to give him another chance.

“Gov. Perry’s leadership is a major reason why Texas has emerged as one of America’s leading forces for economic opportunity and personal freedom,” said California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte. “We’re delighted that he accepted our invitation.”

In a move last month that appealed to GOP conservatives, Perry won passage of a Texas law that bans abortions 20 weeks after fertilization – four weeks earlier than the standard set by Roe v. Wade. But some California Republicans prefer he steers clear of social issues at their convention.

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Ethics procedure changes advance toward approval at Metropolitan Water District

California Water Wars

Anonymous/AP

Tomorrow the Metropolitan Water District’s board of directors will consider a policy to streamline the way ethics complaints are handled at the agency responsible for supplying water to 19 million people in Southern California.

A policy to streamline the way ethics complaints are handled at the agency responsible for supplying water to 19 million people in Southern California was approved by a subcommittee on Monday.  Tomorrow the Metropolitan Water District’s board of directors will consider the policy, and if approved, it will make MWD’s Ethics Office responsible for screening and investigating allegations of conflicts of interest, gifts and harassment. Under existing policy, committees are charged with receiving and reviewing complaints. 
 
“Because there are so many people involved at the outset before an investigation actually commences, there is a sense from people who either have been through the process or who know about it, that there isn’t sufficient confidentiality," MWD Ethics Officer Deena Ghaly told KPCC. 
 
"So that if you wanted to bring forward a sensitive matter, the issue would be that many people would know about it."
 
If the new proposal passes, the Ethics Office would take over responsibility for conducting preliminary investigations. 
 
Despite the size of the agency, the Ethics Office has just three employees and a professional services budget of $15,000. The policy approved by a subcommittee Monday included up to $245,000 for a policy analyst and investigator 
 
“I’m not anxious to add to the overhead of this organization,” MWD Director Larry Dick said of the agency, which has an annual budget of $1.5 billion. 
 
Dick was one of two dissenting votes. Several directors who are not members of the Audit and Ethics Committee attended the afternoon meeting. Director Glen Peterson, who is not on the committee, said he supports some of the internal changes but wants to see the committees stay in place. He also questioned the additional funding. 
 
“I feel the budget increase is way over the top, just way over the top. It just seems to me like it’s kingdom building,” Peterson said. 
 
It’s unclear what will happen when the ethics policy is taken up by the full board. One director who supported the plan in committee questioned those who opposed the ethics plan as too expensive and politically motivated.  
 
“I actually don’t understand the lack of support from this board,” said MWD Director Sylvia Ballin. “Several people have said to me, primarily women, why is it the men of the MWD Board feel so threatened by this change?”
 
“If there’s ever an organization that needs it, it’s MWD.”
 
The Metropolitan Water District’s board of directors will meet tomorrow at noon. 

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