Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Not in My Neighborhood Council

What can save L.A.’s broken neighborhood councils? by Robert Greene

The question before the house is whether to leave the tables as they are or come up with some new kind of arrangement.
Not the sort of

Friday, August 13, 2004


Jeffrey Anderson’s article “The Black Avenger” [July 23–29] cites the City Attorney’s Office’s use of secret settlements and confidentiality clauses to hide systemic discrimination, harassment and retaliation as an alternative to management reform at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). LADWP Assistant General Manager Thomas Hokinson was unable to recall burying mismanagement allegations while he was chief assistant city attorney — no surprise considering workplace bullying has gotten sophisticated and management retaliation is the leading claim at the utility.

The LADWP plays musical chairs to mask these increasing claims. Although responsibility over Human Resources and Labor Relations passed from Raman Raj to Thomas Hokinson, and then to Hal D. Lindsey (retired from Edison) — all of whom were eventually promoted to assistant general managers — tactics to thwart employee claims remain paramount.
Without exposure and widespread public support, the culture at the LADWP will not change. Sure, laws protect individual employees, but individuals do not stand a chance against the juggernaut of attorney-trained bureaucrats, unlimited time and access to the City Attorney’s Office, PR spin masters, contracted legal services, fact-finding committees, and union stalwarts — all accomplished defenders of the status quo. Consequently, employees are highly motivated to compromise their responsibility to act in the public’s best interest to avoid repercussion and loss of promotional opportunity.

Since 1981, every grievance, arbitration, lawsuit and contract for legal services, including every one of the high-dollar settlements covered in “The Black Avenger,” has crossed the Board of Water and Power Commissioners for approval. The Board, having recently mandated “Mutual Respect” and “Workplace Violence” seminars for each employee, cannot claim to be unaware of the rift between enlisted cronies and career civil servants. The real question is: Did they turn a blind eye to it or did they mandate these seminars in an effort to re-frame executive-orchestrated retaliation and bullying as a supervisory issue?

Charter reform and manipulation of civil-service classification and selection processes have exacerbated the problem by increasing the latitude and number of non-civil-service employees serving at the pleasure of management and beholden to their closely held personal and political agendas.

Is the situation out of control? Civil service is characterized by low turnover designed to prevent spoils-system graft and corruption. A monopoly, too, is characterized by low turnover. The LADWP is both a civil-service organization and a monopoly. But the high turnover at the management level indicates that the organizational focus has shifted from public service to opportunists jockeying for personal power. Strife in the workplace, reduced output and higher costs are a result of a preoccupied, self-serving leadership.

By their rhetoric, city administrators lay blame on contractors and understudies. City leaders and their blindly following minions seem to have forgotten that they are charged with a higher standard of behavior, embodied in the city oath, to provide and ensure continuous, ethical, uncompromised, cost-effective service to the citizens of Los Angeles. For their public service, Angelenos entrust them with uncompromised authority, good salaries, benefits and civic honors.

There is a consequence to violating and spinning away the public trust. Therein lies the crux of the problem. The regulatory agencies of this administration — the Board, Controller’s Office, Ethics Commission, Civil Service Commission, City Attorney’s Office and Mayor’s Office — continue to support the status quo, a derelict and dysfunctional culture. Consequently, these internal policing agencies must be the first priority for reform.

I hope that the recent exposure and awareness of widespread city mismanagement, specifically at the LADWP, will result in a recall of the public’s trust.

Out of the Darkness

Some city leaders call for DWP to shed light on secret settlements. . . some don’t. by Jeffrey Anderson

Responding to the L.A. Weekly’s recent exposé of rampant discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation against minority and women employees at the Department of Water and Power, City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski called last week for a review of working conditions at the DWP and an end to secret out-of-court settlements.