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Who’s on First, What’s on Second — The City Hall Comedy Show

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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30 Responses to Who’s on First, What’s on Second — The City Hall Comedy Show

  1. Anonymous says:

    Contracts under $150k don’t have to be approved by the DWP board.
    Either:
    1. This was an existing contract that they are going to let expire on Dec 31, 2009
    or
    2. This is a new agreement/contract approved by a manager or acting manager.
    Either way, these direct questions must be answered by this PUBLIC City Department.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You should be able to request a copy of both the existing and (if one exists) the “exit” contract.
    You can also request any and all electronic and written correspondence in your Public Records Act request.
    But just start with the two (or one) contract(s)

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is a riddle that can be easily solved.
    Alpert cannot act on his own, the Board must vote on items before it. Alpert, an attorney must know this. His statement that he personally asked Nahai to stay on, if true raises important legal questions that may have to be addresses outside the City Attorney’s office (maybe the District Attorney needs to look into this).
    Also Nahai has no class or appears to be very petty with a high amount of disrespect for both ratepayers and taxpayers. A wealthy man like Nahai shouldn’t be such a cheapskate or more direct, a thief with his use of public funds and resources.

  4. Anonymous says:

    And don’t forget Raman Raj’s own conflict of interest issue as reported in this August 6, 2008 LAT/Zahniser article titled “Panel irate over DWP contracts”: http://8.12.42.31/2008/aug/06/local/me-dwp6

  5. Anonymous says:

    My understanding is that there is no existing contract. Nahai served at will.

  6. Anonymous says:

    October 6, 2009 9:04 AM:
    When Nahai first stepped down as Commission President to become the new GM, there was an agenda Item (maybe closed session) to negotiate his salary. Then it was announced publicly.
    I am assuming that there was a board approval for Nahai’s original assignment as GM. Did it give a time? And was that time renewed? Again, this should be public information.
    In any case we are dwelling on small potatoes. The real issues are the rates, the uncertainty of cost of “green power” even if the entire “green power” program is contracted out – what price will the ratepayers pay?
    The green power idea and push away from cheaper coal is also being mandated at the State and may not be a wise idea financially.

  7. Anonymous says:

    When Nahai first stepped down as Commission President to become the new GM, there was an agenda Item (maybe closed session) to negotiate his salary. Then it was announced publicly.
    I am assuming that there was a board approval for Nahai’s original assignment as GM. Did it give a time? And was that time renewed? Again, this should be public information.
    In any case we are dwelling on small potatoes. The real issues are the rates, the uncertainty of cost of “green power” even if the entire “green power” program is contracted out – what price will the ratepayers pay?
    The green power idea and push away from cheaper coal is also being mandated at the State and may not be a wise idea financially.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Making a fuss about the car seems petty – if he just resigned suddenly Friday, is he expected to ditch the car that very night? It would take a while to make new arrangements since he doesn’t even have the two-week or month grace period (longer usually for jobs like this). If he didn’t agree to leave he could probably have insisted on getting paid for the duration of the year anyway – this is a distraction from the issues. Like some contractor according to Greuel’s audit, as in the papers, overbilling the city by millions to haul water waste, charging some 4 times the normal rate? Whoever approves outside arrangements has some serious questions to answer, hopefully.
    The way everyone’s on Nahai shows a terrible lynch mob mentality. The guy gave up a lucrative law practice where he was free to come and go as be pleased without all this headache, was making more money and took the job because he was persuaded he could do some good. Things didn’t work out as everyone had hoped, but he’s had a thankless job, cut the guy some slack and focus on the real issues that can be fixed.

  9. Anonymous says:

    October 6, 2009 9:45 AM:
    I agree with most of your comments. This whole issue is a distraction and is chump change compared to millions of dollars at stake moving forward for DWP as it faces considerable issues related to power generation and water supply/quality.
    The issue with Nahai is more symbolic of an attitude of hypocrisy. Nahai was so focused on his issues related to the environment that he didn’t seem to care about the rate increases affects on all ratepayers.
    He did give up us law practice and maintains a considerable amount of wealthy. So it sends a bad message to the working class taxpayers when a wealthy man doesn’t have the courtesy to use his own personal car (a Mercedes Benz) and instead uses a City-owned car and City paid for gas for a personal trip. That is poor judgement and leadership.
    Nahai can redeem himself by giving up the remaining part of his contract (not to charity) and return the funds to the City. After all, DWP is not a private company.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The city is required, BY LAW, to respond to all California Public Record Act requests WITHIN 14 DAYS! If not, penalties apply.

  11. El Quixotian says:

    Gee, what a great outplacement program.
    Set up for a job with Bubba, AND a severance package including just enough status as a Contractor to allow an orderly transition of the company car, for those errands to destinations lacking valet parking, so you don’t have to worry about some cappucino induced door ding on your nice ride.
    Almost as good as the inplacement program for careerist compadres after they term out from the City Council, Assembly, and Senate hat trick.
    Can we stand the suspense to see what they come up with for the short termer from CD 2 once Mary Benson gives his career the Kevorkian treatment?

  12. Anonymous says:

    11:18 said: The city is required, BY LAW, to respond to all California Public Record Act requests WITHIN 14 DAYS! If not, penalties apply.
    You’re wrong on the facts, and wrong on what the CPRA really is.
    Most people think the Act is a tool designed to assist the public in gaining access to records. In fact, the opposite is true: The Act is a tool designed to assist the agencies in blocking public access to records they deem “exempt” from disclosure.
    You’re at their mercy. Here are the facts:
    1) Under the California Public Records Act, any person can show up without notice at an agency’s office and ask to inspect public records within normal working hours. Upon such a request, the public records must be provided immediately — UNLESS (i) the agency decides that all or part of the requested records are exempt from disclosure, or (ii) the requester asks for copies of the records rather than the right to inspect them.
    2. When either (i) or (ii) happens — and believe me, (i) almost always happens — the agency is granted 10 days (not 14) in which to determine whether or not to comply with the request. At the end of the 10 days, the agency must inform the requester of its decision, and provide an explanation for withholding any records.
    3. That 10 days may EXTENDED BY AN ADDITIONAL 14 DAYS if, in the agency’s discretion, either the records are not readily available or the person who must make a decision on what to release is not readily available during the initial 10-day period.
    4. At the end of the 24 days (the initial 10 plus the 14-day extension), the agency must provide the requested records UNLESS IT DECIDES that immediate disclosure is not possible because the records are still not readily available or require further review and redaction. In that case, the agency can AGAIN DELAY ITS RESPONSE — although this time, the statute doesn’t set a time-certain deadline but rather requires only that the documents be provided “within a reasonable period of time.”
    5. To the extent the agency invokes that “reasonable period of time” delay, it is required only to give the requester an estimate as to the the date the records will be available.
    6. But eventually that date arrives and you get your records, right? WRONG! Once they’re done fucking with you on the time provisions, the real fun begins — battle over the content of the records themselves. The Public Records Act contains a series of “exemptions” that allow an agency to withhold documents entirely, or to heavily redact them by blacking out substantive portions of them.
    7. The exemptions are defined in the Act, but their application is subject to broad interpretation by the agency — which usually errs on the side of redacting rather than disclosing the information.
    8. The exemption categories are so broad as to allow lawmakers to exclude most anything they want to. Here are some of the key areas that are exempt from disclosure:
    a) Personnel records, medical records, or any other information that “would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy.” (If they decide the document is personnel record or germane to a personnel matter, it’s exempt from disclosure.)
    b) Preliminary notes, drafts and memoranda. (If they put a “draft” stamp on it, it’s exempt from disclosure).
    c) Investigative records and intelligence information. (This one’s pretty specific as to law-enforcement or licensing investigations. Administrative investigations, ie audits, are not exempt.)
    d) Litigation, attorney-client privileged and attorney work product. (The litigation component relates to actual pending litigation. They can’t claim it’s related to potential future litigation. But you can count on them withholding anything stamped “attorney-client privileged” even if the declaration of privilege is overly broad and wouldn’t stand up in court).
    e) Other exemptions: There are an array of other catch-all exemptions that allow agencies to withhold information. These include records related: Official Information, trade secrets, securities and financial Institutions; utility, market and crop reports; testing information; apprasals and feasibility reports; gubernatorial correspondence; legislative counsel records; personal financial data used to establish a license applicant’s personal qualifications; home addresses and election petitions.
    f) Public interest exemption. Finally, if all else fails, there is an exemption that allows agencies to withhold records if it deems that the public’s interest is better served by non-disclosure.
    9. You are correct, there are remedies and penalties for non-compliance with the act. HOWEVER, THE PROCESS IS AGAIN TILTED TOWARD THE AGENCY. It has the absolute right to withhold information and cite an exemption. The onus is then on the requester to go to court and litigate, proving that the application of the exemptions was overbroad and the records should be released.
    Bottom line: They can fuck with you with just about any way they want and delay public access to records for just about as long as they want…

  13. stark says:

    What else should we have expected from handing our city over to global carpetbaggers?

  14. Anonymous says:

    The green power idea and push away from cheaper coal is also being mandated at the State and may not be a wise idea financially.
     
    It’s definately not a wise idea financially.  Green is the political catchphrase nowadays but nobody ever gets into the technical specifics, how it costs more to implemenent, is less reliable, and cannot sustain LA whatsoever.
     
    The way everyone’s on Nahai shows a terrible lynch mob mentality.
     
    Agree with this too.  Nahai’s made some pretty stupid political mistakes but the GM position at DWP is a powerless position where you’re expected to obey the mayor.  That he had a falling out with the mayor’s office hints that he was probably trying to do something different.  He also gets unfairly blamed for the rate increases that were needed to remedy management decisions during deregulation. 
    If you really think Nahai is bad, wait til Freeman comes back.  Nahai at least was able to get the DWP windfarm built on his watch.  Freeman on the other hand spent a ton of money on renewables and had nothing to show for it.
    Those of you who want DWP to be cleaned up need to understand it will never happen without severing political ties with the mayor’s office.  It needs to be a separate entity, run by a CEO with customer service in mind and real leverage to run it.  Not a tool that the mayor uses to enhance his reputation through a puppet GM.  This is what we have now.

  15. Anonymous says:

    The green power idea and push away from cheaper coal is also being mandated at the State and may not be a wise idea financially.
     
    It’s definately not a wise idea financially.  Green is the political catchphrase nowadays but nobody ever gets into the technical specifics, how it costs more to implemenent, is less reliable, and cannot sustain LA whatsoever.
     
    The way everyone’s on Nahai shows a terrible lynch mob mentality.
     
    Agree with this too.  Nahai’s made some pretty stupid political mistakes but the GM position at DWP is a powerless position where you’re expected to obey the mayor.  That he had a falling out with the mayor’s office hints that he was probably trying to do something different.  He also gets unfairly blamed for the rate increases that were needed to remedy management decisions during deregulation. 
    If you really think Nahai is bad, wait til Freeman comes back.  Nahai at least was able to get the DWP windfarm built on his watch.  Freeman on the other hand spent a ton of money on renewables and had nothing to show for it.
    Those of you who want DWP to be cleaned up need to understand it will never happen without severing political ties with the mayor’s office.  It needs to be a separate entity, run by a CEO with customer service in mind and real leverage to run it.  Not a tool that the mayor uses to enhance his reputation through a puppet GM.  This is what we have now.

  16. anonymous says:

    Ron wrote: “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.”
    I knew it. Dictate every commission move; then make it appear like they acted independent of the mayor; then the mayor can hide behind them when the bullets (rocks, poopy-doos, etc) fly.
    So, how long before the mayor replaces Alpert and others for making such silly decisions that he had nothing to do with?

  17. Anonymous says:

    If all the NC reps sent e-mails to the city council outraged over this ridiculous contract I think they would get the hint. Does this go before city council for a vote or are we already screwed with the GM of DWP making the call to approve?

  18. KK says:

    A lot of NCs are concerned about missing dogs (4 legged variety).

  19. Anonymous says:

    “By stark on October 6, 2009 2:45 PM
    What else should we have expected from handing our city over to global carpetbaggers?”
    So it is OK to have local people screw the city and the taxpayers?

  20. Anonymous says:

    October 6, 2009 12:21 PM:
    But guess what, DWP is pretty good about releasing information fast. All your discussion and repeating of what is available on-line is wasted time. Just make the request, then complain if you don’t get it in a timely manner.
    But you are guaranteed not to get any information if you don’t request it in the first place knucklehead.

  21. Walter Moore says:

    When I heard about this latest obscene boondoggle, my head burst like a DWP water pipe.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The car thing seems petty, but it is really indicative of the arrogance of power, or should I say “green” power, in this case the power of greenbacks.
    Nahai originally got the $326k job at the DWP because the mayor wanted to pander to the wealthy Iranian community. He has no particular qualifications for the job, everything he’s learnt about the workings of the DWP he learnt on the job from the people who are still there and still capable of answering the any question that could conceivably be asked of Nahai.
    This contract is not ‘typical’ of what happens in the private sector where the outgoing CEO is a total failure. It would be like saying the SEC should pay Bernie Madof a retainer so that he could assist with the transition while the bankruptcy court figures out what to do.
    Nahai ran the DWP without regard for the millions of customers who are held hostage to their monopoly. He squandered millions, if not billions of dollars on any yahoo liberal plan that could vaguely be termed ‘green’ and was obsessed with a “green corridor” of land to be purchased from democrat cronies who stood to make huge profits from reselling worthless land back to the the DWP.
    Nahai now is part of the Clinton camp, another Whitewater in the making, and all the limo libs are lining up to line their pockets.
    Thank you Ron, for having the guts to report this.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Most managers hired by the Mayor have no qualifications for the jobs, so it is not unique to Nahai. He is at least well educated unlike some who got undergraduate degrees in their old age.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Then you have those pompas, arrogant and insecure “managers” changes their titles to make themselves feel more important.
    Take Rudolf Montiel, manager of the Housing Authority who change his own title to President and CEO.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Nahai will not get the cushy contract. Zine is invoking section 245 of the City Charter to deny the DWP commissioners the ability to pay Nahai.
    How many other city councilmembers have the guts to join Zine? You can bet that CD5′s Paul Koretz will not be among them. He’s too much a part of the Villar machine to make a stand.
    Looks like a line is being drawn in the sand here, and it’s about time too. Why does the mayor have such freedom to waste our money without sanction? If we are a democracy, then the council should step in, and if they will not step in, then we know what to do come election time.

  26. crooks and liars says:

    this is what the crooks in city hall call green power { money bribes}
    ladwp will have david freeman another crook thanks to the mayor , what can we spect from the mayor only the best crooks he can find for us .
    all in city hall they all work as a team of crooks and evry thing they say or do is a show they putt up for those who belive things will get better yet things will not get better
    one way or another they will increse youre water and electicity bill there is no end to this till we as rate payers SAY NO MORE.

  27. crook and liars says:

    i forgot to let you all now
    on friday october 9,2009 city council will vote on rate increse on youre water bill
    so i strong ask you to e mail all city concils and tell them how you realy feel about a rate increse in youre water they just dont get it [ I HOPE LOTS OF FOKLS SHOW UP TO CITY HALL IN PERSON }

  28. Anonymous says:

    L.Alpert is a dissapointment. He let himself drawn into a situation, trying to justify and explain others` actions and misdeeds. He should have known better. He has lost a lot of credibility and respect. There is still time to get out, however, while he maintains his honor.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The employees at LADWP do not have performance appraisal.
    Why should their management be held accountable?

  30. Anonymous says:

    The employees at LADWP do not have performance appraisal.
    Why should their management be held accountable?

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