Adding to chorus of overbilled ratepayers urging more accountability at LA DWP, a new LA Times report shows the city's so-called "ratepayer advocate" wrote himself a five year contract extension into Charter Measure RRR at $280,000 per year, roughly $40,000 more than the Mayor makes, and failed to disclose the self-dealing in the ballot summary he wrote.
Fred Pickel, the City's ratepayer advocate, has been missing in action during the three year old billing scandal that's rocked the DWP. He's invisible and last year stood up for the DWP bureaucracy in a ratepayer billing settlement that has yet to deliver refunds to customers, despite a pledge they were coming last summer, and gives DWP control over refund amounts.
Measure RRR is a cozy insider deal for the DWP and Pickel to avoid City Council and Mayor control over rate hikes, contract signings and collective bargaining.
When Pickel wrote himself job security into Measure RRR it was just one more example of how DWP takes care of itself, not ratepayers, until its on the hot seat in a lawsuit, the media, or the City Council.
Measure RRR allows more of the same, only worse. DWP can raise rates and enter into contracts without getting approval of the City Council and Mayor. It allows the type of self-dealing the Times caught Pickel engaging in without accountability to elected officials or transparency.
Because the DWP has failed to fix the three year old billing scandal, ratepayers like 72 year old Velma Mathews are caught in the middle. In this video, she speaks out about the pickle she is in. Despite an LA Times column and KCBS-TV news story on her travails, did Fred Pickel ever call? She's still stuck in limbo at DWP and her health has suffered.
Food and Water Watch, Consumer Watchdog, and other public integrity groups oppose Measure RRR.
Former Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick responded to the Times report that by stating it:
"uncovered a key ingredient in the pandora's box that is embodied by Charter Amendment RRR. This news magnifies the hidden agenda behind this DWP power grab and the department's insiders, like RRR's author Fred Pickel, who have clearly and egregiously taken advantage of this measure at the expense of consumers. If RRR passes, Pickel could make over $1 million off the backs of consumers, the DWP will have more power to increase rate hikes and sign multi-million dollar contract-- and voters will have their decision making powers reduced exponentially. The Times' revelations today unveil only a fraction of the unethical and corrupt politics that may ensue if RRR passes. Vote No on RRR, it's a bad deal for the people of Los Angeles."
Will Angelenos see through the City hall collective Kumbaya for Measure RRR and send a message to DWP that it needs to be more, not less accountable. Only tomorrow will tell.