the city of LA is bribing DWP actors into silence, and we're paying for it
we are now on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in private legal fees for city lawyers interviewed by the Department of Justice regarding the massive crater they left in DWP.
The latest payments were approved last week, deposited as the last two items on a really long agenda by LA’s Budget and Finance Committee. To many they might have scanned as no big deal: a request by the city attorney, who knows stuff, to have the city council authorize payment of legal fees for a couple city lawyers. Oh yea and it’s related to a tiny investigation by the Department of Justice where city officials are going to jail.
Not only are we on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in legal fees as a result of the never-ending DWP litigation suckhole, but the city has been quietly approving hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for white collar criminal defense lawyers for a number of its attorneys who’ve been interviewed by the DOJ over the past few years. And we’re already blasting passed $200 million in taxpayer costs because Mike Feuer and city Democrats wanted a few good headlines for the DWP billing issue.
The two requested reimbursements by the city attorney on Sept. 12 asked us to pay for about $142,000 in legal fees for two line attorneys: Deborah Dorny, a deputy city attorney, and Richard Tom, assistant general counsel for DWP. Both city lawyers were interviewed by federal prosecutors over the DWP scandal, in which, you know, a lot of weird, autistic lawyering happened, including the city suing itself via a controlled lawsuit. A bunch of incorrectly billed DWP customers were defrauded by the city, while attorneys made millions on the side. And according to an exhausting court-sanctioned report, both Tom and Dorny were involved with the filing of the sham billing lawsuit, which included hand-picking an attorney for ratepayers who would be favorable to the city. Given the name, “the White Knight complaint,” the captive plaintiff—Antwon Jones—was the puppet of these city lawyers, like a blind person unaware of who’s holding the gun to his head.
Eskel Solomon, another city attorney who worked on the DWP litigation, had his $80,000 in legal fees paid for by the city as well. That money went to the downtown LA firm Durie Tangri for when the feds spoke with him. Feuer requested that money over a year and a half ago and the city approved it.
In addition, Feuer’s former right hand man until he “retired,” Jim Clark, is having over $400,000 of his legal fees paid for by the city, according to three city contracts. Clark is facing a few civil lawsuits in the matter, represented by the not-so-cheap firm Squire Patton Boggs. The law firm has lobbied for totally reasonable businesses just trying to make our lives better, such as Amazon, Facebook, Goldman Sachs and Raytheon, the latter probably the number one reason we are still at war in Ukraine. The law firm says on its website, “We place you at the core of everything we do.” Sounds intense. Would not hire.
In his request for approval of the fees for Dorny and Tom, Feuer’s office stated:
The subject matter of the employee’s interview was work she performed for the city, and nothing at this time indicates that the employee acted outside the scope of her employment with malice, or in bad faith.
Translation: Our attorneys did a great job not getting arrested, man so good. Thanks for not snitching. Take our money now.
The city attorney’s office said it doesn’t think Tom and Dorny will be interviewed by the DOJ anymore.
But all these attorneys were found by the Special Master to have committed a number of State Bar ethics violations while working on the DWP cases. They including having “colluded” with outside counsel Paul Paradis, “in the scheme to have the city sue itself through the Jones v. City to resolve the pending ratepayer actions, defrauding Mr. Jones, the class, and the court.”
The Special Master stated:
The City’s line attorneys at the DWP, Ms. Dorny, Mr. Solomon, Mr. Tom knew of the Jones v. City plan, but did not protect their client, the city; rather they let the Jones v. City scheme unfold before their eyes and worked on the case thereafter.
According to email records, Tom asked for a copy of the Jones complaint two weeks before it was filed. It appeared that he knew it was coming. Tom, Dorny and Solomon basically denied the conclusions of the Special Master’s report to the LA Times.
On Wednesday, Paradis, the former city lawyer, filed an ethics complaint with the city of LA, alleging Feuer lied in his reimbursement request. Paradis said Feuer made that request “in an effort to appease Dorny and Tom so that they would remain loyal to him.”
“Despite having knowledge of Special Master Robbins’ factual findings concerning Dorny and Tom’s illegal and unethical acts, Feuer deliberately lied to the city council by misrepresenting the truth and failing to disclose Special Master Robbins’ findings to the city council to ensure that the City Council would vote to authorize the expenditure of public funds to reimburse Dorny and Tom,” wrote Paradis.
The city has also paid for $30,000 in legal fees for Donna Stevener, DWP’s chief administrative officer, who analyzed the $30 million city contract awarded to former Paradis-connected company Aventador Utility Solutions. The company’s rates were higher in nearly almost every category compared to others.
Apparently such reimbursement requests are rare. In response to questioning about last week’s reimbursements, a city lawyer told the Finance and Budget Committee, “By providing reimbursement in cases like this it encourages employees to come forward and more fully participate in investigations like this.”
Yea or the exact opposite. The motion was approved. Now we’ll see what the city council does. In the meantime, death by a thousand paper cuts continues.
the debaser, which is not a newsletter, is a people-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.