By City News Service
Los Angeles City Council members said today they want an accounting of how two safety and employee training groups spent an estimated $40 million in Department of Water and Power ratepayer money.
The Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute, two trusts formed to smooth relations between DWP workers and management, have received about $4 million annually from the DWP's coffers over the past decade, but the department declined to detail how those funds were used, according to media reports last week.
The board of trustees for the two "trust organizations" are made up of representatives of DWP and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, which represents the bulk of DWP employees. The purpose of the nonprofit groups are to create safety and employee training curriculum.
Los Angeles City Council members -- in a motion introduced by City Councilman Felipe Fuentes -- say they want DWP officials and the boards that oversee the two trusts to report "as to the function and current status of these nonprofits/Trust entities and their expenditure/programming of public funds."
The motion has been referred to the Energy and Environment Committee, which Fuentes chairs.
IBEW's business manager Brian D'Arcy, responding to the motion in a letter to Fuentes today, said "both trusts have a solid record of accomplishing its missions."
The Joint Training Institute in 2009, worked with the City Council and utility management to secure $8 million in federal grants that were used toward an apprentice training program, D'Arcy said.
The trusts also put forth a safety information and action plan that trained 7,800 workers and developed a "field ergonomic initiative" that benefited 3,500 employees, he said.
The contributions to the trusts are required as part of a collective bargaining agreement, D'Arcy said. For every hour employees work, DWP puts 25 cents into the trust, he said.
The trusts are subject to "stringent oversight requirements," such as annual audits and are under the lens of the two boards of trustees, he said.
Before the two trusts were set up, "DWP had numerous and disparate training and safety programs" that were "inefficient, expensive, duplicative and didn't achieve the goals of thoughtful and consolidated programs for our workforce," D'Arcy said.
Fuentes' motion also calls for a list of other nonprofit or trust organizations that receive DWP funds, complete with explanations of the amounts they receive and the purpose of each organization.
Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin said last week he would be auditing the two nonprofit organizations, and Mayor Eric Garcetti has called on nonprofit and DWP officials to disclose how the money was spent.