August 16, 2022

Previous DWP board member ‘acted honorably,’ legal professional says

An legal professional for a former Los Angeles Office of H2o and Power board member connected to an alleged bribery scheme defended his customer Tuesday.

Monthly bill Funderburk, the previous board member, “always acted honorably in his law follow and in the greatest passions of the town and the DWP,” mentioned his legal professional, Jan Handzlik.

Prosecutors alleged this week that leading officers at the DWP agreed to choose bribes in exchange for their vote on a $30-million contract. The contract was presented to a organization owned by legal professional Paul Paradis, who was functioning for Town Atty. Mike Feuer’s place of work on litigation stemming from a faulty DWP billing process.

Paradis agreed to plead responsible to a single count of bribery and is cooperating with the ongoing federal felony investigation, prosecutors mentioned.

According to the plea settlement, Paradis recognized a virtually $2.2-million kickback from a further lawyer. He also bribed a DWP normal supervisor with a $1-million income supply for promised long run work and did unrelated legal operate at the ask for of the DWP board member.

Neither the basic supervisor nor the board member are named in the plea settlement, but the facts in the court docket document make distinct that the manager is David Wright, who remaining the DWP in 2019. He has not responded to requests for comment from The Moments.

Funderburk, an lawyer who stepped down from the board in 2018, referred queries from The Occasions about the unnamed board member to his legal professional.

The unnamed board member is male, according to the plea settlement. The only other male member of the board at that time, Mel Levine, declined to remark to The Times.

In accordance to the plea arrangement, the unnamed board member solicited unpaid lawful products and services and guidance from Paradis ahead of the vote on the $30-million deal, before finally supporting the agreement.

The board member encountered Paradis in the hallway at the DWP soon before he entered the board conference space in advance of the agreement vote on June 6, 2017, according to the plea settlement.

The board member expressed appreciation for Paradis’ assistance on the unrelated legal issue and stated terms to the result of, “You just take care of me, I choose care of you,” in accordance to the plea agreement.

Paradis comprehended this to signify that the board member would vote in favor of the $30-million, no-bid contract if he ongoing to offer the board member with “unpaid legal products and services and assistance” according to the plea agreement.

Paradis and his legislation partner ongoing to perform legal operate for the board member until early August 2017 collectively they carried out roughly 36 several hours of lawful perform, which Paradis valued at above $30,000 based on their respective billing charges, in accordance to the plea agreement.

“Contrary to Paradis’ self-serving allegations, Monthly bill under no circumstances sought or gained particular legal services from him,” Handzlik, Funderburk’s attorney, claimed Tuesday. “Rather, to keep away from acquiring to cost 1 of his have law clients for planning motions, Invoice requested Paradis for copies of similar motions he had submitted in a further situation.

“Paradis was then a highly regarded and reliable outdoors lawyer for DWP. By redrafting and applying these motions, Invoice obtained no monetary gain and in reality was able to conserve his shopper cash.

“Paradis now admits that, as a result of fraud and deceit, he acquired about $2 million in kickbacks and was caught making an attempt consider an additional $30 million, all from his individual client’s resources,” Handzlik mentioned. “All of this was hidden from Monthly bill and the DWP.”

No charges have been submitted in opposition to Wright or Funderburk.

The accusations are the most up-to-date to rock the DWP, an agency exactly where substantial-profile missteps or general public battles involving its powerful union and local politicians routinely overshadow the function the utility does to produce h2o and power to town citizens.

However, alleged corruption is an additional subject entirely — and some longtime DWP critics said Tuesday they have been taken aback by the brazen acts outlined by prosecutors.

“I’m stunned at the sheer transactional nature of the bribes,” explained Jamie Court, president of Buyer Watchdog. “This is pure graft.”

Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Sector and Commerce Assn., stated the allegations involving Wright “were plainly self-working.” “Even my 8-yr-previous knows what self-dealing is,” Waldman reported.

The standard supervisor and board members are appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Requested Tuesday about the allegations, Garcetti claimed Paradis “needs to pay the selling price.”

“The typical manager that I questioned to leave plainly has difficulties if the accusations in the push launch are accurate,” Garcetti stated. “Anybody who serves the town or does organization with us and broke the regulation greater be prepared to pay back the value.”

Right after the FBI raided DWP headquarters in July 2019, searching for facts similar to contracts and other concerns, Garcetti announced two months later that he would develop an inspector basic office at the DWP to evaluate contracting matters, whistleblower grievances, ethics and other inside procedures.

The office environment has nevertheless to launch.

Garcetti spokesman Harrison Wollman explained Monday the pandemic compelled some departments to pause some systems and rather concentration on helping those people impacted by the crisis.

”We have resumed development and will have an announcement on the method ahead of the end of this calendar year,” Wollman stated.

Times workers author Sam Dean contributed to this report.