Monday, May 14, 2007

Another Questionable DWP-Contractor Link Merits Probe

FROM ZUMA DOGG'S "ZAP" INBOX: (Zuma's Action Plan) 310-928-7544


Read more corruption in city hall. From

Another questionable DWP-contractor link merits probe

Fleishman-Hillard overbilling scandal cast the city department as an unwitting victim --- new case undermines that notion.

Somehow, officials at the Los Angeles DWP survived the Fleishman-Hillard overbilling scandal a few years ago, when they should have been prosecuted just like the public-relations firm's executives.

....The DWP officials who approved the contracts and worked with the firm got a full pass...Now a new, very similar contract irregularity emerging at the utility has a striking resemblance to the Fleishman-Hillard affair. And it could very well expose the whole truth — that the powerful city department is not the unwitting victim of sinister forces, but a willing co-conspirator in fleecing the public.

In this new case, an independent auditor found that CH2M Hill, a Denver-based engineering firm with a large, politically connected Los Angeles office, appears to have overbilled DWP for $3.3 million as part of an eight-year, $96 million contract for dust control services in the Owens Valley...The parallels to the Fleishman-Hillard case are clear...Both are contracts with large firms that do regular business with the city, operated by political players who have friends at City Hall. Both are firms that gave generously to the campaigns of the city's top politicians.

Hill's former main man in L.A., Jack Baylis, is a big political contributor. Employees and the firm have collectively donated more than $22,000 to L.A. politicians in the last six years.

DWP officials can't simply blame the contractors again this time. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The audit found, among many discrepancies, that the city was paying labor rates 10 percent higher than the firm's proposed rate and lacked cost analyses. But two previous DWP audits somehow failed to uncover any of these problems.

This is more than a case of city workers being careless with public money. This smacks of collusion and wanton misappropriation of public funds. The District Attorney's Office needs to look beyond the contractors into the department itself.

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