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DWP Let $2.4 Million Go Uncollected, Now Wants Rate Hike

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wants to raise water and power rates, but a CBS investigation found the utility failed to collect millions of dollars in revenue - including money owed by the husband of one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's top administrators.

David Goldstein, investigative reporter for CBS2 and KCAL9, found that in more than two years Maurice Levin had not paid more than $56,000 owed in back rent on property leased from the DWP, a city agency. Levin refused to pay even though his wife, Randi Levin, reports directly to the mayor as general manager of the city's information technology department.

Levin runs a garden in North Hollywood and leases property from the DWP. The land is located underneath high voltage power lines that hum day and night.

Levin said he paid his rent up until a few years ago when he just decided it was too much and stopped. Since then, the Department of Water and Power has done nothing about it, and the property bill now tops $56,000.

"They say I owe them that?" he said.

When questioned if he found anything wrong with that, Levin replied "Wrong with what?" and denied any issue with his wife being a city department head.

"It has nothing to do with that," Levin added about his spouse's official role.

Councilman Dennis Zine thinks it does.

"It's outrageous," said Zine. "To be married to a general manager in the city of LA -- an example of leadership -- that's outrageous."

This investigation is not the first time Levin has been in the news. In April, CBS2 reported how Levin got his car out of police impound after his wife called LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

When questioned about the appearance of improprieties regarding a second incident, Levin turned the talk back on the reporter.

"Are you about real news or the appearance of impropriety?" he said.

After CBS2 filed a public records request for a copy of Levin's lease, the DWP admitted there were many other instances where they failed to collect rent.

The DWP says the utility is owed $2.4 million in delinquent payments from leaseholders. This amount is money they never attempted to get -- even though it is now proposing a 10 percent hike in electric rates during the next two years, and a 5 percent hike in water rates.

"I'm concerned about that," said Mayor Villaraigosa. "I think the department has to make a case for why these people still owe this money."

In a statement the DWP's Joe Ramallo said, "Due to multi-year hiring freezes and budget cuts, staff resources were inadequate to keep pace with the workload."

But now they're attempting to catch up. Weeks after CBS2's public request, the department filed papers to try to evict Levin, a move he says he will fight.

David Goldstein, CBS2 News

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