Judge Orders LA Union-Controlled Nonprofits to Seat Board Members Appointed by Mayor

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July 18, 2014;Los Angeles Times

A judge has ordered two controversial Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) nonprofits to seat trustees allied with Mayor Eric Garcetti, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Superior Court Judge Michael Linfield granted a preliminary injunction requiring the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the city-owned utility’s largest union, to recognize two new trustees appointed by the mayor, although he did not order it to convene meetings of the two nonprofits’ boards.

If the meetings happen, according to the Times, the trustees—the mayor’s chief counsel, and a DWP board member (a mayoral appointee)—could then get access to the nonprofits’ detailed financial records. Garcetti and L.A.’s other top elected officials are locked in a months-long battle with IBEW leader Brian D’Arcy over access to documents showing how the Joint Training Institute and Joint Safety Institute have spent more than $40 million in ratepayer money since 2000.

The nonprofits, ostensibly set up to augment training and enhance labor-management relations, are jointly run by boards split evenly between union and management appointees. The union trustees have refused to meet with the mayor’s trustees since their appointments early this year. It was unclear if the IBEW would appeal the judge’s ruling.

Earlier this year, the union did appeal when another judge ordered it to release the nonprofits’ financial records to City Controller Ron Galperin and sit for an under-oath interview with city auditors; D’Arcy won a stay of that ruling from the Court of Appeals. Afterwards, the Controller refused to make the annual $4 million payment to the nonprofits, as specified in a labor agreement between the DWP and the union some 14 years ago.

Garcetti’s office hailed the ruling, while the union did not respond to a request for comment by the Times. City leaders started demanding access to the non-profits’ financial records last year after the paper reported that DWP managers had very little information on how the money has been spent over the years. The dispute continues the bad blood between the Mayor and the IBEW, which actively supported his opponent in last year’s election.—Larry Kaplan