DWP Low Shenanigans in High Places

David Nahai resigned abruptly Friday as CEO of the DWP, as he liked to call himself.

He didn't give the usual two weeks notice, which was understandable since he was fired by the unanimous agreement of the people who worked for him, the people who supervised him and the people who pay the bills, namely you and me, the ratepayers.
Yet, there he was Saturday afternoon about 4:30 tooling around Bel Air in his city car, a black Nissan Altima Hybrid, getting coffee at Starbuck's on Beverly Glen Circle. Thumbnail image for nahainissan.jpgYou can see his profile in the passenger side mirror of this snapshot taken while his wife was buying coffee. It wouldn't surprise me if Nahai walked off with his DWP Blackberry and a box of DWP pens and a case of DWP bottled water.

The one thing for sure is he's walking away from a $326,000 job with a golden handshake worth nearly twice the median income of the people patronizingly called his customers.

Just who gave him a $6,300-a-week contract -- his salary when he was employed -- is far from clear.

Lee Alpert, the president of the DWP Commission, says he gave Nahai the deal, dismissing criticism in an interview with David Zahniser of the TImes this way: "There's nothing nefarious about it, nothing complex about it. This is a reasonable business decision, nothing more than that, David's resigned, and we need his institutional knowledge for the next few months."

The trouble with that is Alpert doesn't have the authority to award contracts.

Raman Raj, DWP's chief operating officer who is acting general manager, does have the authority but says he had nothing to do with it

So did Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa give the order when he bit the bullet and dumped Nahai after reading the scathing report about his pal by a management consultant hired to look at the dysfunction at high levels of the nation's largest municipal utility?

No way. The mayor is no more responsible for his general managers than he is for the budget catastrophe. "These are all decisions that will be made by the DWP commission, and the mayor has full confidence in the commission and its president," Villaraigosa spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said in a written statement.

It's surprising Hamilton's computer didn't crash as she wrote such a bald-faced lie when the mayor has robbed the commission system of any semblance of independence or credibility.

The persistent Zahniser captures the sense of that in the concluding paragraphs of his article:

"Alpert gave differing answers, however, on how the consulting contract was developed. At one point, he said he personally asked Nahai to be a consultant. At another, he said he could not say who came up with the idea, calling such information ;'irrelevant.'
"I concurred with the decision that was made," he (Alpert) said. "I was part of it. I concurred with it. It's something I think the commission would think was a good idea."

So we don't really know who and by what authority Nahai will be paid $81,000 for his "institutional memory" over the next three months.

To his credit, Alpert put the deal on today's DWP agenda even though it's not a commission matter when he could have hid it. It will be interesting to see who actually will sign the contract for the DWP and what it actually says.

OK I'm not obtuse as to see what happened. Nahai didn't take the news that he was out kindly whether the mayor actually screwed up the courage to talk to him or left the dirty work  to someone else.

So he made a lot of threats and demands and got this deal so he will keep his mouth shut and not queer things for the mayor by going public with all the dirty back room deals that he has been part of.

It's just business and the beauty of the public sector is that the money they are giving away is just play dough.

Anyway, the payoff for failure to Nahai is a pittance compared to the millions of dollars the DWP commission will soon be giving away to its 8,500 workers.

They are about to get a 2 percent cost-of-;Living raise although the cost of living in LA actually fell 1.7 percent in the last year. Throw in the likelihood of a lump sum payment as well and guarantees of 2 to 4 percent raises for the next four years and you're talking big money.

Then, there's the cost of fixing all the leaky water pipes and exploding electrical boxes and the billions for solar energy and your DWP bills will soon be doubling and tripling.

Since the 40 percent of the city households living in single-family homes bear the brunt of DWP rate hikes, bimonthly bills of $1,000 and even $2,000.will become common. Maybe, the DWP can use its excellent credit rating to provide second mortgages so its customers can pay them.

There's nothing funny about this City Hall comedy.

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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