It started a little over a month ago with a tip that came from inside the Department of Water and Power: Raman Raj
is still on DWP payroll.
It was hard to believe.
Raj was summarily fired as chief operating officer in February by the new General Manager Ron Nichols and escorted from the DWP headquarters.
An investigation into what had gone wrong found Raj
had given Brian D'Arcy, the powerful IBEW union boss "too much influence in the management" of the utility and shielded union employees from disciplinary action.
could not be trusted to "act in the department's interest," if it conflicted with his
Yet, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ordered Raj rehired in 2007 in the No. 2 job and put him in charge of day-to-day operations under inexperienced General Manager David Nahai, a lawyer with expertise in environmental issues who had been DWP Commission President.
Much despised by those who worked for him, Raj
- backed by D'Arcy who for years has virtually run the DWP
- clashed with Nahai to the point the mayor hired a management psychologist to intervene and make an oral report to him.
A short time later, Nahai was forced out and David Freeman, who as DWP GM in 1999 had originally hired Raj
, was put in charge of the utility once again.
In the tortured history of the DWP
over the last 13 years, these three conspiratorial figures - D'Arcy, Freeman and Raj
- stand out for the failure of their leadership, their failure to achieve the goals of cleaner energy and water and for the waste of the public's money.
"In response to your question regarding whether Raman Raj
is on disability, please be advised that he
How is it possible that a guy earning roughly $1,000 a day going to work in a powerful position could suddenly develop a disability that could be paying his
full salary even six months after he
was fired, even two years from now?
"Pl ease join me in wishing Raman
well in the next stage of his
On March 24, fully seven weeks being relieving Raj
of duty and dismissing him, Nichols signed off on a "Separation Agreement and Release of Claims" (Raj Separation-1.pdf) that was reached " solely in order to clarify' and resolve any issues or disputes- that may exist between them arising out of-the employment relationship and/or its termination."
It allowed Raj
to continue on the payroll using his
accrued vacation time for another seven weeks.
And it gave Raj
termination date of May 13 to apply for disability under the Employee Retirement Plan.
did and he
got it - though the plan administrator Sangeeta Bhatia has yet to make it clear what the nature of his
post-dismissal disability is, how much Raj
is being paid or for how long.
In a letter - the DWP
refuses normally to respond to California Public Records Act inquiries by email - she
said details will be delayed because unspecified "unusual circumstances" exist.
Ramallo in an email had the courtesy to explain the disability options available to Raj
Clearly as a salaried manager, Raj is eligible for two years of salary worth nearly $530,000 over the next two years if his disability status continues to be verified.
would have been in an even more enviable situation if the deal the DWP
Board approved after he
rejoined the utility had been finalized in August 2008 - a time when rate hikes of up to 25 percent were being approved and the mayor was increasing payments from the power fund to the city general fund from 5 to 8 percent, pushing it past the $250 million mark on top of the 10 percent utility tax.
was given an extra $152,000 toward his
pension which would have allowed him to buy significantly more credit towards his
retirement payment than he
has earned with his
five years of service.
Then City Controller Laura Chick challenged the board decision and the next day Raj backed down on the pension payment demand
Three months before the pension flap, Raj
had become the target of serious conflict of interest charges over possible steering $5 million in contracts to firms that had retained him prior to his
return to the DWP
Within the DWP
, rumors about Raj's status have been percolating ever since his
farewell email (Raj-Farewell.pdf) was sent to employees in June, months after he
was out of the building.
The farewell message was undated, part of his
settlement agreement -- and it was unctuous, claiming credit for others achievements and warmly thanking the staff that largely disliked him.
He referred to his "mixed emotions" about leaving the DWP and his pride in the achievements they made "together."
"Al l this we accomplished in times of unprecedented change and undue external pressures.
The underlying elements that made all this happen was strong teamwork cutting across s i los and a focus o n man aging change effectively," he
nside the DWP
, it was seen as leaving the door open to come back for a third try.
"It was an inside joke within DWP
was actually running the DWP
while David Nahai, David Freeman, and Austin Beutner
were General Manager/figureheads," said one manager who has tracked what is going on.
"It seems like if Ron Nichols gets terminated for not getting another rate increase, Raj
may return to fill the vacuum.