LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is giving away more than $1 million a year in ratepayer money to charities and nonprofits, an investigation by CBS2’s David Goldstein has uncovered. He also found money going to one non-profit that has a DWP executive sitting on the board.

The LADWP made numerous donations over the past three years in amounts ranging from $5,000 to nearly $100,000. In total, more than $5 million was donated by LADWP to charities between 2015 and 2017, CBS2 determined.

Some of the charities are related to the environment or energy, while others appear to have no relation to water or power. One specific charity was located in Santa Monica, outside LADWP’s territory.

“Should ratepayer money go for charitable contributions?” Goldstein asked political watchdog Jack Humphreville.

“The answer to that is no,” Humphreville responded.

Humphreville, president of the DWP Advocacy Committee, thinks these charitable contributions should stop because the decision to donate to one charity versus another could be political.

“I don’t think the department should be financing organizations and their people to go out there and pick my pocket,” Humphreville said.

Martin Adams, chief operating officer for LADWP, makes the decisions on contributions and defends them claiming it’s a way to help the community.

“We don’t want to be, every two months, sending a water and power bill, we need to be part of the fabric of Los Angeles,” Adams said.

CBS2 fought with LADWP for months to get its donation records. At first, the agency produced an incomplete report. Then, weeks later, LADWP came up with another record that included money going to nonprofits. However, CBS2 discovered it specifically left out hundreds of thousands of dollars going to one specific nonprofit.

When CBS2 searched the city controller’s database, it found that LADWP paid the Council for Watershed Health, a nonprofit environmental organization, $220,000 in 2017. That donation was not included on the list provided by the agency to CBS2.

Furthermore, CBS2 discovered that Adams is vice president of the board of directors for the Council for Watershed Health.

Adams denied that LADWP was trying to cover up the donation. DWP says the money was for membership to the Council – and a contract for services – not donations.  That’s why the money wasn’t included on the list provided to us

“Is the department trying to hide the amount of money going to the council? Goldstein asked.

“Not at all,” Adams said.

“Do you think it’s a conflict of interest that you sit on the board, and hundreds of thousands of dollars is going to that nonprofit?” Goldstein asked.

“No, not at all,” Adams reiterated.

Political ethics expert Bob Stern believes what LADWP did is not illegal, but in his opinion, it is not right.

“I think there’s an ethical problem as opposed to a legal problem with doing that,” Stern told CBS2.

“You don’t want someone on the board of directors when that person is in charge of giving money to that organization,” Stern added.

That’s not the only link between LADWP and the Council for Watershed Health. CBS2 learned that the wife of LADWP Assistant General Manager Joe Ramallo, Wendy Ramallo, was executive director for the council for two years through December of 2017. Ramallo claims it was all above board.

“There’s absolutely no conflict whatsoever,” Ramallo alleges. “In fact, I went above and beyond to try and recuse myself from any business matter involving the council, and I did so.”

“Don’t you think it’s suspicious that you are on the board of this nonprofit, your assistant general manager’s wife was in charge of this nonprofit, and low and behold, you don’t report a single dollar?” Goldstein asked Adams.

“I don’t think it’s suspicious,” Adams responded. “It should have been on this list.”

Meanwhile, struggling ratepayers who spoke to CBS2 at an LADWP office in Van Nuys were furious when they were told about the donations.

“I paid my bill, it’s the last day!” said one angry ratepayer. “It’s the last day, it’s hard to collect. And they give the money away, I don’t get it.”

Comments (11)
  1. Is any of this money going to Mayor Garcetti’s named charities?

  2. I would like to know if any of the recipients of DWP’s “charitable donations,” were given to the LA Maror’s “favored,” charities?

  3. David Goldstein reports are the best examples of expose journalism on television. One reason to watch channel 2 news is for David’s reports. Now if we could just do something about the DWP, Los Angeles would be in better shape.

  4. Homeowners with backyards and lots of trees to water, beware this summer when your sewer bill skyrockets and is larger than your water bill. Why? Because of this year’s winter drought, heat, and wind. The more water you use in your backyard this winter, the higher your sewer bill will be starting next summer. And the difference from the previous winter may be five times higher if you did not water a year ago during the winter months when we had 50 inches of rain versus 3 inches of rains so far this winter.

    The rub here is that the DWP should not be charging sewer fees for outdoor water use and the DWP should be offering a one or two day a month backyard watering waiver during winter droughts. By doing and saying nothing the DWP profits immensely by billing water that never made it to a sewer towards your sewer bill which results in much higher sewer charges for SIX consecutive billing cycles starting next summer.

    1. When my sewer charges equal that of my electric bill, you bet I’m ticked off. The DWP is a form of organized crime, and their donations to CA politicians are nothing more than bribes.

  5. DWP is about five to six days too fast when they send their late payment notice. The common accepted grace period is 20 days PLUS 4 days to send the bill, and 3 days to receive payment for a total of 27 days. DWP sends out their late payment notices right on the 19 or 20 day mark without taking into account the 7 day courtesy. If DWP customers late payments are being tracked and tallied, then the DWP needs to be giving their customers 27 days, not 20 days to pay their bill.

  6. Can you guys PLEASE Put an off switch on your videos. You are wasting massive amounts of bandwidth and slowing down the page way too much. It took me 20 minutes to leave 2 comments.

  7. Typical Democrat corruption. What’s new here?

  8. Yeah and Garcetti is running around Iowa trying to become President? Maybe he should clean up this mess, the gang problem in Los Angeles, the increase in the homeless population, sky high rents and cops going on medical leave still collecting a salary.

    Maybe he should fix the problems here first before seeking higher goals. Just sayin’.

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