An auditor working for the Los Angeles City Controller’s Office has filed a claim against the office, alleging her supervisor discouraged her from closely examining some Department of Water and Power contracts, including one that is part of an FBI investigation.

According to the claim, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, Beth Kennedy — who said she has worked as an auditor for 21 years — contends she was instructed by a supervisor to “not be as thorough” with her DWP audit, with the supervisor mentioning the death in May of a “DWP whistleblower.”

She also claims there was a break-in at her La Habra home in June, hours after she and her staff had questioned DWP managers about the handling of some of its contracts.

DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo told The Times that the utility was unaware of any connection between Kennedy’s claim and the death of a DWP employee.

In her claim, filed in August, Kennedy wrote, “I have never been told by a supervisor at Los Angeles County or the city of Los Angeles that I need to fear for my safety.”

Kennedy’s boss, Bob Wingenroth, issued a statement denying that he tried to persuade her from doing a thorough job.

“I fully deny and disagree with the allegation,” Wingenroth said. “Ms. Kennedy has misrepresented my words, which were given in the spirit of continuing to move forward with an audit in an environment of concern. Ms. Kennedy was worried about beginning to do field work at the Department of Water and Power because of issues unrelated to this audit.

“I told Ms. Kennedy that she and the other auditors assigned to this project should go ahead with their work of looking into procurement of IT services at the DWP. I emphasized that they could do so in a time-efficient and professional manner.”

Rob Wilcox, communications director for the City Attorney’s Office, said the claim is under review and he had no immediate comment. Claims are filed as a precursor to a lawsuit.

Two contracts Kennedy said were of particular concern were with the companies Aventador and Ardent, which are linked to an attorney believed to be at the center of the FBI investigation. She said the contracts were being handled differently than other such contracts with the DWP and that the Controller’s Office had ignored complaints about the contracts since 2017.

Ian Thompson, spokesman for the Controller’s Office, said the work done by the office’s audit services division “is consistently thorough, professional and delivers results that improve how the city of Los Angeles functions.”

“This year alone, our auditors have led the way on high-impact reports about tree trimming, IT contracting fraud, the recent homeless services audit and the first major citywide fraud, waste and abuse report, just to name a few,” Thompson said.

Kennedy is seeking $450,000 in damages. She did not detail the damage amounts, but said she had to hire experts to secure her home and that she and her family have been traumatized by the break-in.

Kennedy is still employed by the Controller’s Office, officials said.

FBI agents served search warrants at the downtown headquarters of the DWP and City Hall East in July as part of a probe into the city’s handling of litigation and a settlement over the botched rollout of a DWP billing system.

The warrants were for documents of several city employees at City Hall East and DWP offices, including some staff members of the City Attorney’s Office.

FBI authorities have since declined to comment on specifics of the investigation.

The botched rollout of the DWP billing system in 2013 led to thousands of customers receiving inaccurate bills, with some being wildly overcharged. The debacle prompted a class-action lawsuit that led to a settlement requiring the DWP to reimburse customers roughly $67 million.

The city and DWP, meanwhile, sued PricewaterhouseCoopers over its handling of the system’s rollout.

But PricewaterhouseCoopers earlier this year questioned the city’s relationship with an outside attorney it hired to handle the litigation against the company.

The firm said the attorney, Paul Paradis, was hired by the city as a legal consultant in its lawsuit against the company, while he was also serving as legal counsel suing the city on behalf of a DWP customer in the class-action lawsuit.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.