LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A recent city audit found hundreds of thousands of dollars of Department of Water and Power ratepayer money spent by union officials on travel and lavish dinners.
Until CBS2 Investigative Reporter David Goldstein caught up with Brian D'Arcy, who is the head of the union, he had refused to answer questions.
"Get out of my face, please," D'Arcy told Goldstein.
Goldstein responded: "I'm not in your face, sir."
"Yes, you are, and you're on private property," D'Arcy said.
As Goldstein reports, D'Arcy's union, the I.B.E.W., which represents DWP employees, is considered the strongest in the city.
"He's got a lot of power. He got a lot of money," according to political watchdog Jack Humphreville, who says D'Arcy's money can sway political campaigns.
But now, the union has come under fire.
A recent city audit of two trusts set up by the union and DWP to promote worker safety found hundreds of thousands of dollars of DWP ratepayer money spent on travel to conferences, some in Hawaii and Las Vegas, as well as expensive meals and even $87,000 on gas for personal cars.
"It stinks. That's the easiest way to put it. Credit cards, gas money, junkets, no-bid contracts. It just stinks," Humphreville said.
D'Arcy hadn't commented on the audit until CBS2 caught up with him.
Goldstein: "Can I get your reaction, sir, to the controller's audit?"
D'Arcy: "Not very accurate."
Goldstein: "Why is it not very accurate?"
D'Arcy: "Look, we're going to come out with our report, and it'll be pretty evident why it's not accurate."
Goldstein: "Why should the ratepayers be paying for expensive dinners?"
D'Arcy: "It's my members' money."
Goldstein: "But it's money that came through DWP, isn't it?"
D'Arcy: "None of that is true. Why don't you look at it in its entirety instead of trying to nitpick stuff?"
But Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, who did the audit, says that's not true.
"Absolutely it was ratepayer money because it's actually a check that is given to these trusts by the city of Los Angeles each and every single year, and these are DWP checks, and guess where that money comes from? It comes from the ratepayers," Galperin said.
The audit found those ratepayers picked up the tab for a $1,700 check at K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans; $1,000 at Scotch & Sirloin in Ventura; and $640 at Caesars Mesa Grill in Las Vegas with no mention, according to Galperin, on why union officials were fine dining.
CBS2 also found almost $5,000 charged for meals at Taylor's Steak House, which is just a few blocks from union headquarters.
D'Arcy's name isn't connected to any of the charges, but coincidentally that's the same restaurant where Goldstein found him leaving after lunching with former Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine.
Goldstein: "Did the trust pay for this lunch you just had now?"
D'Arcy: "No, it didn't."
Goldstein: "Because there's about $5,000 of payments from the trust to Taylor's Steak House."
D'Arcy: "Well, it doesn't have anything to do with me. I'm only a trustee. I don't have a credit card."
Goldstein: "It's essentially ratepayer money, isn't it?"
D'Arcy: "No, it isn't."
As Goldstein reports, he then lashed out at the motivation for the audit.
D'Arcy: "This is a specious political audit by somebody who's mad because I wouldn't support him for controller."
Goldstein: "And who is that?"
D'Arcy: "Mr. Galperin."
Goldstein: "And you think he's doing it that as vindictive?"
D'Arcy: "Yes, I do. I very much do."
"I think it's absurd," said Galperin when asked whether the audit was done because the union didn't support him.
"We pick our audits based on what we think will make the biggest difference for the taxpayers and ratepayers of the city of LA," Galperin said.
D'Arcy: "I appreciate it if this would just conclude, all right?"
Goldstein: "I'm in a public spot here, sir."
D'Arcy: "It's not public. It's a restaurant. It's not public."
With that, D'Arcy wanted to end the interview, getting in his car and still denying that ratepayer money was used improperly.
D'Arcy: "You can say the same thing over and over, but it isn't going to change the facts, and I'm sure you'll edit that part out."
Despite the findings, the City Controller found no criminal wrongdoings from the audit.
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