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LADWP Needs Confidence Building for Ratepayers and Employees

LA WATCHDOG

LA WATCHDOG - The following was sent to me by a long time DWP employee who was very concerned about the overreaching and retaliatory behavior and management style of former DWP Board President Cynthia McClain-Hill.  I do not know, and don’t want to know, the identity of this employee. But over the last two years, his/her comments have proven to be spot on and is now a trusted source.   

The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) constantly sees change in its management. It has gone through 10 General Managers in the last 20 years. This average of two years at the helm does little to boost Ratepayer and employee confidence in that the only constant at LADWP is change. Of course, every time a new regime takes charge, that person wants and needs to install people he/she can trust. 

Martin Adams is career long LADWP employee, rising through the ranks of the Water System to eventually become GM in July of 2019 after the ousting of federally convicted David Wright, who is now serving a six-year sentence for bribery. Adams provided much needed integrity and stability to the nation’s largest public utility, but all was not rosy throughout his tenure which will end with his retirement in the next month or two. 

Adams was forced to work with a Board President, Cynthia McClain-Hill, whose main objective appeared to be tilting the scales of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). McClain-Hill, commonly derogatorily referred to as “CMH” within the LADWP ranks, created a dubious pattern of steering consultant contracts to friends, the majority of whom are of African-American descent, through administrative subordinates. People tend to forget that CMH was Vice President of the LADWP Commission when the Paul Paradis $30 Million single source consulting contract was approved by the Board of Commissioners. This is the contract “straw” that broke the proverbial horse’s back and led to the FBI raid and conviction of the Wright and another employee, David Alexander. However, in recent lawsuits that have circulated through the ranks, Pardis alleges that CMH and former Board President Mel Levine had illegal private discussions with Paradis assuring him the Board would pass the massive $30 Million single source consulting contract. Commissioners know they are banned from having private negotiations or discussions with potential vendors before an award is presented to the Board for a vote. Every time CMH directed staff to award a single-source contract, no one had the courage or conviction, including Adams, to stop this unethical and sometimes illegal behavior because of the fear of retaliation by CMH. 

All this unethical, illegal contracting behavior caused the City Attorney to put a halt to all single-source contracts at LADWP. While CMH was being investigated for her role in these single-source contracts and interference with management, she arrogantly booked a trip to an extravagant conference in Dubai from December 2-7, 2023 on the Ratepayers’ dime. How did the Ratepayers benefit from its politically appointed Board President going to Dubai for a conference? Furthermore, and deceivingly, CMH was asked by the Board if anyone else was going to Dubai to represent the Department. CMH stated she was the only person attending.  Then a mere week or two before the conference, two of CMH’s most trusted employees, LaTanya Bogin and Denis Obiang, “magically” had LADWP Travel book them rooms and airfare to Dubai. Bogin was a career administrative clerk/secretary who has strong ties to IBEW Local 18 bosses. CMH had a direct hand in promoting her into the position Assistant Director of DEI instantly giving her an approximate $80,000 raise. A California Public Records Acts (CPRA) request revealed Adams was blindsided by the additions of Bogin and Obiang accompanying CMH. Shortly after the Dubai trip, CMH resigned from the Board. No disciplinary measures were taken on CMH, Bogin, or Obiang. 

The Ratepayers can only hope and pray that Adams’ successor, whether a current employee or an “outsider,” will not fall victim to what countless past General Managers and politically appointed Commissioners have done by using their new found power to act in a manner that doesn’t always serve the best interests of Ratepayers and employees  Now is time for the Department, its executive management, and the Board of Commissioners to begin the process of earning the trust and confidence of the Ratepayers and the Department’s employees. 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  [email protected].)

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