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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Defends Embattled DWP Ratepayer Advocate

LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS
http://www.dailynews.com/business/20151112/los-angeles-mayor-eric-garcetti-defends-embattled-dwp-ratepayer-advocate

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday defended the Department of Water and Power’s ratepayer advocate amid a watchdog group’s demands that the mayor find a new person for the job.

During a segment on KNX’s “Ask the Mayor,” Garcetti said that ratepayer Fred Pickel is “advocating” for ratepayers.

“He has some tough people working with him who really do hold the feet to the fire of the Department of Water and Power,” Garcetti said during the radio program.

Pickel was appointed in 2012 by the Los Angeles City Council to provide an outside assessment of the utility.

In a rare criticism of the ratepayer advocate, Jamie Court, the president of the nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog, blasted Pickel last week for backing a settlement agreement between the DWP and ratepayers who have sued over the utility’s faulty billing system.

Court disagrees with the proposed $44 million settlement and wants Garcetti to meet with ratepayers to fully explain the agreement.

Court also wrote an opinion piece in this news organization this week that said “Mayor Garcetti needs to replace Pickel with a real ratepayer advocate and fund a fully operational advocate’s office or more (DWP) scandals will ensue.”

Garcetti took office in 2013 vowing to reform the DWP, whose workers largely enjoy higher salaries and better health care plans than Los Angeles city employees.

Joining Garcetti on the radio show Thursday, DWP General Manager Marcie Edwards also defended Pickel. “He’s been a huge thorn, and I realize that’s his job, and he’s been doing that very well,” Edwards said.

Pickel could not be reached for comment.

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Reach the author at dakota.smith@dailynews.com or follow Dakota on Twitter: @dakotacdsmith.