It was interesting—maybe even enlightening—to hear how City Controller Ron Galperin arranged to have Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Atty. Mike Feuer join him for a press conference last month blasting the head of the big union representing Department of Water and Power employees.
None of them are known as flamethrowers. On the contrary, it’s hard to get the three to say anything that would make a headline, even on page 3 of the Times LATEXTRA section. So it was noteworthy that the mild-mannered trio stood together to challenge the ferocious Brian D’Arcy, who runs the DWP’s largest employee union, Local 18 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers. He also influences big decisions at city hall with his combative personality and his union’s campaign contributions.
The cooperation between Garcetti, Galperin and Feuer is unusual at city hall, where elected officials tend to guard their turf and don’t like to share glory.
At the news conference, Galperin announced he had issued subpoenas to force D’Arcy to account for the spending of $40 million given by the union and the department to two nonprofit organizations created a decade ago to improve worker-management relations after years of turmoil.
D’Arcy co-manages the organizations—the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute--with Ron Nichols, the DWP general manager, who recently resigned. The money comes from rates paid by DWP customers. Despite the efforts of the Los Angeles Times and the commissioners in charge of the department, neither Nichols nor D’Arcy has explained how the money has been spent. Nichols has given Galperin a box of documents but D’Arcy has declined to cooperate.
Just how this money is spent is one of city hall’s great mysteries.
At stake, Galperin told me, was the principle “that if you spend money that comes from the people, you should know how it is spent. And the performance, what did we get for the money? Did we see improvements in safety? Did we see improvements in training?”
Galperin asked City Attorney Feuer how much power he had to issue subpoenas for the records. Plenty, replied Feuer, and, he added that the Police Department is authorized to deliver the subpoenas to D’Arcy.
“I talked to the mayor, “ Galperin said. “We have a regular meeting, there was a long list of agenda items and this happened to be one of them.”
After getting Feuer’s opinion, “ we were not intending to do a press conference but we got so many calls from media,” Galperin said that he decided quickly to hold one. His staff talked to Garcetti and Feuer aides and the joint session was quickly arranged.
Galperin said it was important “for the three of us have a unified front on this, (to say) just trying to stonewall the city is not acceptable. A real change in city hall, three officers collaborating ”
Garcetti, Feuer, and Galperin are the only city officers elected citywide. It will be interesting and enlightening to see what will happen if they continue to work together.