Fred Pickel was recommended Thursday by a committee to serve another term as the watchdog and ratepayer advocate for the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.
The Citizens Committee for the Selection of the Executive Director of the Office of Public Accountability said Pickel should serve another term as head of the Office of Public Accountability.
Pickel, a longtime energy industry consultant, was appointed in February 2012 to be the official watchdog of the LADWP for a five-year term. The term has since expired and he is working on a month-to-month contract, and his reappointment must also be approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council.
Pickel’s tenure has been criticized heavily by Consumer Watchdog and the environmental group Food & Water Watch, which have said he does not stand up to the LADWP strong enough on issues including rate hikes and the Delta Tunnels project.
“Choosing to nominate Fred Pickel to another five-year contract at nearly $300,000 a year without even talking to some of the most qualified applicants for the job betrays all DWP ratepayers,” said Liza Tucker of Consumer Watchdog.
“It had nothing to do with picking a true ratepayer advocate to protect the interests of ratepayers and everything to do with Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson wanting a rubber-stamper of DWP decisions.”
Consumer Watchdog issued a report in March that outlined its claim that Pickel has cost ratepayers nearly $7 billion through either faulty advice or failing to oppose costly projects.
Pickel has brushed off the criticism. In June 2017 he told City News Service, “I believe the Consumer Watchdog has plenty of fire but is short on fact.”
Pickel also said he has done plenty to fight rate hikes, including a hike that was being proposed in 2012 that he fought when he first took office. Although a hike did go through, changes he proposed saved ratepayers $50 million per year, he said.