The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has directed an estimated $40 million in ratepayer money to two nonprofit groups charged with improving relations with the utility's largest employee union, but it claims to have scant information on how the public funds have been spent, it was reported today.
The Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute, controlled by DWP managers and union leaders, have received up to $4 million per year since their creation more than a decade ago after a contentious round of job cutbacks at the utility, according to the Los Angeles Times. Records show nearly all of the nonprofits' money comes from DWP ratepayers, the newspaper reported.
About $1 million per year has been used to pay the salaries of a handful of administrators, according to the limited records the utility has provided to The Times under the California Public Records Act. Separate federal tax records offer only summaries of the organizations' outlays, including more than $360,000 spent on travel from 2009 to 2011.
Officials at the two nonprofits, the DWP and the employees' union, Local 18 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, declined to be interviewed about the institutes' activities and spending. After inquiries from The Times, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti said the mayor plans to meet with DWP managers in the coming days to discuss the issue.
"This is ratepayer money and they need to account for it," Jeff Millman told The Times.
The broad purpose of the organizations, city records show, has been to "identify" safety and training as core values at the department, and to promote "communication, mutual trust and respect" between DWP managers and the electrical workers' union, The Times reported.