Editorial writer Kerry Cavanaugh raised serious questions on latimes.com about Mayor Eric Garcetti’s appointment of former Department of Water and Power General Manager David Wiggs as assistant general manager in charge of the public utility’s electric system.
In a Feb. 1 post, Cavanaugh wrote “it’s so odd that Garcetti, who has made transparency and DWP reform his signature issues, would bring back a guy who ran the utility during a scandal involving financial shenanigans and ethical lapses.”.
She was referring to an intense period in the administration of then-Mayor Jim Hahn, who served from 2001 until Antonio Villaraigosa defeated him in 2005. It was a time of rough politics that helped shape the Los Angeles of today. Hahn dumped Police Chief Bernard Parks and brought in Bill Bratton, who reformed the department, doing much to ease racial tensions. And Hahn successfully opposed secession of the San Fernando Valley, preserving the present city boundaries.
It took great amounts of money to defeat secession. Hahn was also raising money for his re-election campaign. It was a fevered time and one of the mainstays of the pressured Hahn political operation was a public relations firm, Fleishman Hillard. Doug Dowie, former managing editor of the Daily News, headed the firm’s Los Angeles office. Fleishman, Cavanaugh notes, received $3 million a year from the DWP “and the firm worked closely with (then General Manager) Wiggs, even writing his talking points when he spoke to the city council.” Ultimately,Dowie was sentenced to 3 ½ years in federal prison for defrauding taxpayers by overcharging the DWP. Wiggs wrote a letter to the court praising Dowie, saying, “I had complete trust in Doug, and if I were to run a company again I would not hesitate to seek out and hire Doug.”
Wiggs was involved in another controversial matter while general manager, according to DWP watchdog Jack Humphreville, a neighborhood council activist. He blogged on the CityWatch web site that Wiggs signed off on the deal that has sent $40 million in DWP public funds to two shadowy organizations run by the DWP and the union representing most department workers. Union chief Brian D’Arcy has refused Garcetti’s demand to tell how the money is spent.
Why would Garcetti give a job to Wiggs if he knew his background? Another oddity is how Wiggs’ appointment was announced—in a sentence at the very end of a press release on Anaheim city manager Marcie Edwards’ nomination for DWP general manager. Possibly Garcetti didn’t want anyone to notice. And did he consult Edwards before giving the important job to Wiggs?
This may seem like small time stuff to the many people not obsessed with city hall. But nitty gritty politics and the bureaucracy are what run the place. That’s why this is important—and why it is distressing that Garcetti, a big picture guy, seems to have been indifferent to these very important details.