Attorney's ethics complaint seeks investigation of Feuer, others in DWP case

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 27, 2019 — Mel Levine, President of Board of Water and Power Commissioners at meeting to approve a 25-year contract Tuesday for a solar-plus-energy-storage project in Kern County. This looks like the cheapest contract ever signed for solar in the United States, and maybe in the world, with the energy priced at less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)
Mel Levine, a former president of the L.A. Board of Water and Power Commissioners, is accused of ethics violations related to the long-running DWP billing scandal. His lawyer said the allegations are without merit. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Paul Paradis, an attorney who performed work for the city attorney's office and Department of Water and Power, agreed two months ago to plead guilty in a sprawling federal case involving a collusive lawsuit, bribes and extortion.

Now, Paradis has filed a complaint with the city's Ethics Commission asking the agency to investigate the actions of several individuals, including City Atty. Mike Feuer and Mel Levine, a former president of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners.

Paradis' complaint was also sent to City Controller Ron Galperin's office and the State Bar, the attorney told The Times.

The 40-page document accuses more than half a dozen officials at the DWP and city attorney's office of violating city ethics rules or state rules governing attorneys' behavior.

Among the complaints leveled at Feuer is that he was aware that his top former attorney, Chief Deputy City Atty. Jim Clark, conducted work through an email associated with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm that formerly employed Clark.

A representative for Feuer dismissed Paradis' complaint, calling it "a desperate attempt by a confessed criminal to divert attention from his own misconduct by baselessly trying to smear the reputation of the City Attorney." Feuer is running for mayor.

Levine, also a former partner and counsel at Gibson Dunn, violated the city's ethics rules when he took actions that were beneficial to the law firm, according to Paradis' complaint.

Levine's attorney, Daniel Shallman, said the allegations are without merit.

"Mr. Paradis has concocted a false narrative to deflect responsibility from his own corrupt criminal conduct and egregious violations of legal ethics rules," Shallman said.

The complaint follows several plea deal announcements from prosecutors in the federal probe of the DWP and the city attorney's office over issues stemming from the botched rollout of a new DWP billing system in 2013.

Prosecutors say the city’s legal team secretly colluded with an Ohio lawyer in an effort to quickly settle a class-action lawsuit brought by DWP customers over a new billing system that overcharged hundreds of thousand of customers.

Paradis, in his ethics complaint filed Wednesday, said that as president of the DWP board, Levine in 2015 helped engineer L.A.'s lawsuit against PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting firm which worked to install the billing system.

Paradis was hired by Feuer's office to sue PricewaterhouseCoopers, which the city blamed for the billing disaster.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was a "client" of Gibson Dunn, according to Paradis' complaint. Therefore, Levine should have recused himself from matters involving the firm, the complaint says.

Along with other DWP board members, Levine voted in April 2015 to hire outside attorneys — Paradis and another attorney — to sue PricewaterhouseCoopers, the complaint alleges.

Levine also used his Gibson Dunn email to send and receive information about the city's case against PricewaterhouseCoopers, violating city ethics rules about disclosing confidential information, Paradis alleges.

The complaint also alleges that Levine should have recused himself when there was a discussion among DWP management and DWP board members about whether to temporarily ban PricewaterhouseCoopers from working as a DWP vendor because of anger over the firm's alleged role in the billing scandal.

Instead, Levine intervened, according to Paradis' complaint.

Levine, who represented California’s 27th District for 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, was appointed to the DWP board in 2013 by Mayor Eric Garcetti and served until 2020.

Garcetti spokesman Harrison Wollman told The Times Thursday that the mayor believes every complaint to the Ethics Department should be reviewed. The mayor "will reserve judgment on this matter until that process is complete," Wollman said.

Paradis' complaint says that Clark — also a former partner at Gibson Dunn who received retirement payments from the firm — also helped engineer the lawsuit against PricewaterhouseCoopers. Clark also used his Gibson Dunn email, according to Paradis' complaint.

Clark didn't respond to a request for comment, nor did a representative for Gibson Dunn.

Paradis’ complaint includes emails in which Feuer is included on the exchanges as various parties discuss whether to proceed with debarment against PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Emails introduced in court documents in the PricewaterhouseCoopers case have rarely included Feuer, who has said in his own deposition in the case that he delegated work to others in his office.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on Paradis' complaint. Paradis is cooperating with the ongoing federal criminal investigation, prosecutors have said. He has not yet been sentenced in the case.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting