The Los Angeles city controller has the authority to audit the financial records of two non-profit institutes funded with public money from the Department of Water and Power, a Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.
The decision came over the objections of attorneys for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18 and its boss, Brian D'Arcy.
Judge James Chalfant's order will be in place on April 22. Because the judge declined IBEW's request to place a hold on the order while the ruling is appealed, Controller Ron Galperin will have access to the financial records as soon as May 6.
"This is the city trying to manage its departments," Chalfant said.
Fourteen years ago, the DWP agreed to create the Joint Safety Institute to provide safety training to its employees. Two years later, the Joint Training Institute was established. Together, the groups have received more than $40 million in taxpayer funds. DWP management and IBEW Local 18 operate the groups together.
After he was elected last July, Galperin attempted to audit the two groups. When the group's leadership declined to turn over financial records, Galperin's office issued subpoenas for the information. An effort to block the subpoenas landed the matter in court Tuesday.
"Today is an important victory for transparency and an important step in holding accountable those who think they're above the law," Galperin said at a news conference following the ruling.
"This could be done even more quickly than May 6. All that Mr. D'Arcy has to do is decide that he is going to comply with the subpoena and he could do so tomorrow," said Galperin, though he acknowledged that's unlikely to happen.
Attorneys for the union declined to comment after the 75-minute hearing. They also refused to give their names to reporters. A clerk for the court identified the lawyers as D. William Heine and Steven Zimmerman.
D'Arcy has said the groups were created because DWP's training and safety programs were "inefficient" and "expensive." The trusts continue to receive public funds, as agreed to in the DWP labor contract approved last year by the city. According to tax returns reviewed by KPCC, the institutes are spending more than $3 million a year on salaries, travel and office expenses.
Mayor Eric Garcetti recently told KPCC he believes the non-profit model for operating the training institutes is acceptable, as long as they operate transparently.