A former Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employee is suing the city and the utility, alleging he was fired for complaining about being pressured internally and by the City Attorney’s Office to approve more than $1 million in baseless claims made mostly by wealthy individuals.
A representative of the City Attorney’s Office did not immediately return a call for comment on John Konecnik’s whistleblower retaliation suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court. He’s seeking unspecified damages.
Konecnik, who became a DWP senior claims representative in January 2009, negotiated claims for damage caused by such DWP equipment as water mains and power poles, then made recommendations to supervisors, according to his court papers.
Lawyers and investigators for the City Attorney’s Office were directly involved in examining and making payments for DWP claims, according to Konecnik, who alleges they and members of the DWP claims department “regularly and intentionally overpaid claims” by as much as several hundred thousand dollars.
“These fraudulent overpayment of claims have resulted in economic loss totaling more than $1 million to the city … and ultimately to DWP rate payers,” the suit alleges.
The alleged overpayments were most common when claimants lived in affluent neighborhoods in City Council District 5, according to the suit.
Konecnik alleges he was pressured and instructed by high-level members of the DWP and the City Attorney’s Office to recommend inflated claims payments and to falsify the results of his investigations in order to justify them.
On each of those occasions, the DWP and the City Attorney’s Office knew Konecnik’s investigations showed the DWP was not responsible for the level of damage corresponding to the allegedly inflated claims, according to the lawsuit.
Konecnik says he refused such orders and believed they were a misappropriation of funds. He was “berated, harassed and threatened” by supervisors and isolated from others in his section in retaliation, the suit alleges.
From 2009 until 2012, Konecnik complained to DWP and members of the City Attorney’s Office about the orders he was given, the suit says. He began to suffer from stress and high-blood pressure and went on medical leave in September 2012, according to the suit.
Konecnik says he was fired last month while he was still on medical leave. His suit also alleges disability discrimination.
— City News Service
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