LA Observed file photo of DWP headquarters.
Mayor Eric Garcetti announced this morning that Ron Nichols, the general manager of the city's Department of Water and Power for three years, will leave at the end of the month. A letter from Nichols said he was going for personal reasons.
The DWP is an important department to the mayor's political agenda. The record and future of the DWP was a big issue in the campaign for mayor. Garcetti was gracious, though not effusive, in making known that Nichols was out.
"I thank Ron for his service to our city as head of a department that serves every L.A. resident and business," Garcetti said in a statement. "I'm focused on continuing to reform the DWP to cut costs, improve customer service and increase transparency."
The mayor's statement pretty signals where he is coming from:
Mayor Garcetti was elected to office with a strong mandate from the voters to reform the DWP. He negotiated a new DWP employee contract that won substantial savings for ratepayers through pension reform and salary freezes for the next three years. Mayor Garcetti also insisted the contract contain unprecedented language that allows reform to continue even after it was signed. The day after he authorized the new DWP union contract, Mayor Garcetti instructed the DWP to complete a benchmark survey to study how its operations and work rules compare to investor-owned and municipal utilities around the country.
Mayor Garcetti appointed a new DWP commission that has been aggressively pursuing DWP reform, including full transparency of all ratepayer money spent at JTI and JSI, two DWP union-led entities. He is also working with Controller Ron Galperin on comprehensive audits of those entities and of the entire department.
Just yesterday, Galperin announced he would subpoena DWP union chief Brian D'Arcy to investigate what happened to $40 million in DWP funds that went to non-profits that D'Arcy co-manages. D'Arcy was a major backer of Garcetti's opponent, Wendy Greuel, in the last election.
The Daily News story notes that Nichols is leaving as the "department is facing criticism for a faulty new billing system and two secretive nonprofits."