LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A union chief's attempt to dispel suspicions that a pair of trusts have been used as slush funds instead of for the intended purpose of training city utility workers failed to gain traction today among critics who question how the trusts spent about $40 million in ratepayer funds.
Brian D'Arcy, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, that represents 8,500 Department of Water and Power employees, has maintained the trusts are independent of the city and their financial documents are not subject to be investigated under subpoenas served last month by City Controller Ron Galperin as part of an official probe.
``If the controller were to demand to audit the books of Kaiser Permanente, because the DWP pays ratepayer money to Kaiser to provide healthcare benefits to its employees, the controller would receive the same response I have given him,'' D'Arcy said Wednesday in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.
D'Arcy, who is challenging the subpoenas in court, instead released the results of audits conducted by an accounting firm retained by the trusts, the Joint Safety Institute and the Joint Training Institute.
Those audit reports show that 75 percent of the funds went directly into employee safety and training programs and 25 percent to administration costs, D'Arcy wrote in the Times.
Galperin said the reports are merely summaries of ``general information'' already available to the public in the trusts' tax filings and said D'Arcy's actions this week ``just raises more questions.''
``As controller, I am dedicated to a simple principle of transparency,'' Galperin said. ``Anyone who receives public funds must account for their use of those funds, and this latest ploy just doesn't cut it.''
Mayor Eric Garcetti's spokesman, Jeff Millman, also said the union- released audits are ``not good enough.''
``The city has the right to follow the money, and that's why we are seeking a public accounting of individual expenditures by the trusts,'' Millman said.
Mel Levine, president of the water and power commission board, said the Times article -- which D'Arcy said was an effort to ``clear the air'' -- only ``muddies the waters.''
``The way to clear the air is to comply with the controller's audit and not to come up with excuses as to why he can't,'' Levine said.
He said he believes D'Arcy is using the opinion piece ``to try to convince the judge he shouldn't have to comply with the subpoenas,'' adding that he thinks the Kaiser analogy is ``ridiculous.''
Kaiser only is partially funded by ratepayer money, while the trusts are entirely funded by public funds, so its financial details are owed to the public, Levine said.
With Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey's office also investigating the trusts, the union has asked former state attorney general John Van de Kamp to coordinate with Lacey's office, D'Arcy wrote in the Times.