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New DWP manager announces that No. 2 executive will step down immediately

February 4, 2011 |  5:17 pm

The No. 2 executive at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is stepping down, according to a memo issued Friday by the utility’s new general manager.

DWP General Manager Ron Nichols said that Raman Raj, hired in 2007, would return to a job in the private sector. He had been a supporter of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who raised money for his 2005 campaign. “Effective today, any pending matters that would have required his attention should be forwarded to the office of the general manager,” Nichols wrote.

Raj, once criticized for being too close to leaders of the union representing utility workers, served in a key position last spring just as the DWP was threatening to withhold $73.5 million from the city budget unless the City Council agreed to approve a new electricity rate increase. He also was at odds with former General Manager H. David Nahai between 2007 and 2009, according to officials familiar with the DWP.

At one point, Nahai asked aides to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- who selects the DWP commissioners and the top utility executive -- if he could rework the DWP’s organizational chart so that Raj had less authority. Villaraigosa's staff refused, according to Nahai.

Not long after, the DWP paid an organizational psychologist roughly $50,000 to interview various DWP executives about management frictions at the utility and then provide a report to Villaraigosa. Subsequently, Nahai resigned.

Raj said the psychologist was hired at the instructionof S. David Freeman, a deputy mayor who also ran the DWP during the standoff over electricity rates.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

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