L.A. City Council Committee to Consider In-Dept Review for LADWP Watchdog

The longtime energy industry consultant was appointed in February 2012 to be the official watchdog of the LADWP.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A City Council committee will consider today if the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power's watchdog and ratepayer advocate, Fred Pickel, should be subjected to an in-depth performance review before he is granted another five-year term.

The longtime energy industry consultant was appointed in February 2012 to be the official watchdog of the LADWP. Since his five-year term expired, he has been working on a month-to-month contract.

Pickel was recommended for reappointment recently by the Citizens Committee for the Selection of the Executive Director of the Office of Public Accountability to serve another term as head of the Office of Public Accountability. His reappointment must also be approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council.

Councilman Paul Koretz introduced a motion that says Pickel was recommended for reappointment “without any review of his job performance in his first 6 1/2 years on the job and the chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee which nominated him has stated that no such review has taken place nor ever would.” Koretz's motion also says that “to date, the OPA has not improved DWP transparency or adequately addressed common consumer complaints.”

The Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee, which Koretz chairs, is scheduled to consider the motion at a 2 pm. meeting.

Pickel did not respond to a request to comment.

Pickel's tenure has been criticized heavily by Consumer Watchdog and the environmental group Food & Water Watch, which have said he does not stand up to the LADWP enough on issues including rate hikes and the Delta Tunnels project.

“Choosing to nominate Fred Pickel to another five-year contract at nearly $300,000 a year without even talking to some of the most qualified applicants for the job betrays all DWP ratepayers,” Liza Tucker of Consumer Watchdog said after he was recommended for reappointment. “It had nothing to do with picking a true ratepayer advocate to protect the interests of ratepayers and everything to do with Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson wanting a rubber-stamper of DWP decisions.”

Consumer Watchdog issued a report in March that outlined its claim that Pickel has cost ratepayers nearly $7 billion through either faulty advice or failing to oppose costly projects.

Pickel has brushed off the criticism. In June 2017 he told City News Service, “I believe the Consumer Watchdog has plenty of fire but is short on fact.”

Pickel also said he has done plenty to fight rate hikes, including a hike that was being proposed in 2012 that he fought when he first took office. Although a hike did go through, changes he proposed saved ratepayers $50 million per year, he said.

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