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DWP union chief accuses Villaraigosa of trying to 'scapegoat union members' [Updated]

April 23, 2010 |  3:48 pm

The head of the powerful union that represents employees of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power voiced alarm Friday over Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s comments to The Times editorial board about the utility’s management.

In a statement released through a spokeswoman, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 business manager Brian D’Arcy said he was “shocked and disappointed” -- and accused the mayor of attempting to “scapegoat union members” for the utility’s problems.

“In doing so, he is failing to take responsibility for his own actions in managing the largest municipally owned public utility in the United States,” D’Arcy said.

Two days ago, Villaraigosa told The Times that he had been waging an “absolute war” against the DWP bureaucracy and said the union was “both part of the problem and part of the solution.” He also complained that high-level managers are both “defenders of the status quo” and members of the union.

D’Arcy responded by saying that the utility’s problem was that the last two permanent general managers – Ron Deaton and H. David Nahai – were not “public utility professionals.”

“This, not the union’s bargaining unit, caused many of the management problems at the DWP,” D’Arcy said.

Deaton, a veteran city policy analyst, was selected by former Mayor James Hahn in 2004 and retired in 2007. Nahai, an attorney and one-time member of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, was selected by Villaraigosa in 2007 but lasted less than two years.

[Updated at 6:11 p.m.: Hours after D'Arcy released his statement, Nahai offered some sharp words himself, saying that Deaton had served City Hall for decades and "didn't deserve to be attacked" by the union chief.

Nahai also pointed out that he spent two years on the DWP board, part of that time as president, before being named general manager. And he defended his overall tenure at the utility, saying that during that time the agency had achieved a dramatic reduction in water consumption, made new strides in energy efficiency and ensured that renewable energy made up roughly 15% of the DWP's power portfolio.

"If Mr. D'Arcy truly wants to uncover the cause of the present problems at the DWP, a good, long look in the mirror might help," Nahai said.]

--David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall