Comment on this post

Why the Rate Payer Advocate Won’t Fix the DWP: Government Hates Transparency, Accountability

Let this lesson on the history of inspector general watchdogs on government abuses be instructive if you think a Rate Payer Advocate is going to stop the Department of Water and Power from squandering, stealing and misusing your money.

When LAUSD’s scandal erupted over abuses in spending billions of dollars in school construction bond money, they hired tough ex-FBI agent Don Mullinax to restore credibility. After years of bureaucratic and political interference and resistance, they have just turned the post over to a corporate environmental lawyer who is downsizing and restructuring the office, making it the soup of the soup of the soup of an inspector general.

A few months back, the LA Community College District hired an inspector general to clean up widespread abuses in handling of its billions of dollars in construction money. They chose a construction consultant with no auditing experience to make sure the office was all hat, no cattle.chick-IG.jpg

Now Jerry Brown has acted decisively to get rid of his pesky watchdog, eliminating the nuisance of having Laura Chick hounding local and state government officials on how they are wasting $50 billion in federal stimulus money.

It was an important symbolic action, the governor-elect’s minions declared, since there are do-nothing state auditing departments already in place and getting rid of Chick will save $700,000 toward fixing the $28 billion deficit. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The last thing government wants is someone watching over their shoulder and telling the public what they’re doing.

Ability doesn’t count for much in government and accountability counts for even less.

What Brown did in getting rid of the inspector general, half of its $1.2 million cost paid by the feds, is what happens inevitably to all such posts.

In the face of scandal, they appoint a tough watchdog who faces constant obstruction and foot-dragging. When the fire of public anger dies down, they bring in a lapdog, cut the budget, water down the office’s authority.

That’s the history of inspector generals and it won’t be any different if the Department of Water and Power gets a watchdog.

The ballot measure going before voters on March 8 to create the Office of Public Accountability and Rate Payer Advocate was only given limited power and money and will be totally under the control of elected officials — watering down the post even before its created and keeping the watchdog on a very tight leash if it is created…  

Chick avoided directly calling Brown out but left little doubt about what a mess state government is or that elimination of the inspector general’s office will open the floodgates to waste, inefficiency and undoubtedly corruption.

“The state is not run by elected officials; it’s run by very powerful,
very knowledgeable civil servants,” Chick told the LA Times. “Things don’t
change unless they want them to.”

Her letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who created the post and put her in charge 20 months ago when she left office as LA City Controller, outlined what she found in trying to bring a measure of accountability to the handling of federal stimulus money, half of which is still in the process of being spent.

“It is a challenge here in Sacramento to know exactly what needs fixing and how to go about it, because of the embedded culture of “we don’t air our dirty laundry.” This is so pervasive that when you, Governor Schwarzenegger, issued your executive order for departments to post their audits on your transparency website, there were all kinds of excuses used to avoid complying. For example, compliance and monitoring reviews were not posted because they were not considered to be official audits. Some departments claimed they needed many years to scan and post their reports.”

“There is a misperception in government that unearthing problems is equivalent to “throwing someone under the bus.” I believe that it is government’s duty to find problems, put forward solutions and do so in plain view. I believe the taxpayers will support and rally around this approach.”

She goes on to describe how reports are “ignored,” how the “buck is passed,” lack of “an overarching plan,” the “silo mentality,” “confusing and conflicting regulations.”

“The key legacy of the Recovery Act is easily summed up in own word: Transparency,” she concluded. “There is no doubt that transparency is the lynchpin of improving government and empowering the people.”

No doubt, indeed. Is it any wonder Brown fired her?

This entry was posted in City Hall, DWP, Hot Topics, LAUSD, Los Angeles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Why the Rate Payer Advocate Won’t Fix the DWP: Government Hates Transparency, Accountability

  1. Anonymous says:

    There are so many I know who never trusted Laura Chick and were shocked she even got the job from the Gov. First of all Laura didn’t do her job well in LA as Controller. We are now beginning to see the mess she left behind and how Wendy Greueome instead of doing her job to clean it up is in campaign mode for Mayor. Don’t forget the sneaky way Chick wanted to get rid of Mayor Hahn and had a private meeting at her home with her staff on city time and invited all the Mayor candidates and not Hahn. Then she was caught signing off on a $4 million check to Fleishman Hillard who were the PR firm for the Corrupt DWP. PR Firm Overcharged DWP by $4.2 Million
    and Laura Chick signed the check later saying she didn’t know what it was for.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So now you’re making a martyr out of Laura Chick because you get to point the finger at an incoming Democratic Governor, but you all hated her and vilified her when she called out your Trutanich as a liar and hypocrite. Like 9:10 a.m. reflects.

  3. As for the Office of Public Accountability and the Ratepayers Advocate, it is a worthwhile start so that when the spaghetti and meatballs hit the fan, there will hopefully be a competent organization ready to act on a timely basis. And you know that stuff is going to happen, sooner or later, that will cause a commotion.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ron, you need to get a grip on things, man. You are losing it…seriously, man. Your desire to be against everything, even things you supported a few days before, is bit disturbing. Over the last 2 weeks I’ve lost a lot of respect for you. your erratic, phony, and opportunistic stances on these issues is becoming more and more transparent. your only goal is to stir the pot, not actually take a stand. Its pretty sad.

  5. In Eagle Rock says:

    All things considered, there are a lot of commissions and departments and other positions and groups drawing salaries that are either redundant, outdated, or simply modern day versions of featherbedding that are used for political rewards or even just inattention to what is on the state’s payroll.
    Doing some zero-based budget at the state level could probably narrow the easy ones to cut.
    But don’t expect that to happen after seeing Jerry Brown’s choices and considering who supported his campaign- It might not even matter that there’s possible mishandling of money as much as what the money was appproved for in the first place, that being the real waste.

  6. Anonymous says:

    So a couple weeks back you were slamming the Council and Garcetti in particular for not going along with a Ratepayer Advocate to help reform the DWP. Now you claim a Ratepayer Advocate is useless. Hilarious

  7. Anonymous says:

    Please delete the add posted under comments as By SEO Marketing Software on December 21, 2010 2:53 PM

  8. Anonymous says:

    It is like the false security we get from the Ethics Commission that should be disbanded. They have never done anything about the corruption of their City Hall masters, but were last reported in the Daily News for hounding some women’s organization for not putting their name on an election flyer. Great job Commission! Now give us an update on what you’ve done on Ticketgate.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Good riddance. She is a ruthless media hound who did not produce a single conviction through her much-publicized “pay to play” audits. No one needs that kind of “oversight”.

  10. Knowledge Hungry says:

    Ron,
    Would you please write an analysis on the labor deal Council passed last Friday-file number 09-0963?

  11. Anonymous says:

    The Los Angeles Community College District’s new Inspector General, Christine Marez, spent years working for one of the major construction management firms that she will be charged with investigating. There is information circulating that Marez, BEFORE the Request for Proposal for the LACCD Inspector General contract was released, went to a LAUSD Inspector General and asked what an inspector general does.
    A few months later, her brand new company, submitted a response to the LACCD’s RFP. Five days later she posted on her Facebook page telling her “friends” that her firm was at the top of the list for “an amazing contract.” How could she know this information?
    On the day she submitted her proposal, she created a three page webpage with Vistaprint — the cheapest monthly charge of $4.95. This was the first day her business had a web presence. Oddly, the webpage claimed that her best clients were referrals and repeat clients.
    If the LACCD’s Inspector General is lying sack of shit from one of the largest construction management firms the position is supposed to investigate, is there doubt that the entire procurement was tainted with corruption?
    Where is Jerry Brown, the state’s attorney general? Where is Steve Cooley, the District Attorney? The stench is getting overwhelming while the construction management firms like URS and others eat at the pigs trough of the LACCD bond program. Meanwhile, Brown and Cooley campaigned to fulfill their political ambitions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>