The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Board of Commissioners will mount a legal defense during an ongoing federal probe of the department’s handling of a ratepayer class-action lawsuit brought against the municipal utility over the botched launch of a billing system, it was announced Tuesday.

The board voted Monday during a closed session to seek authorization from Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer to hire outside counsel to represent DWP. The meeting came on the same day a former top DWP executive who worked on cyber risks at the department agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of lying to investigators.

The DWP board also requested the removal of three assistant city attorneys from their present role as legal representatives of the department.

“The Board of Commissioners must have complete confidence in the legal advice and recommendations it receives from the lawyers engaged to protect and defend the interests of the LADWP and its customers,” DWP Board President Cynthia McClain-Hill said in a statement.

“Facts brought to light in recent investigations into the handling of the customer class-action and related litigation by outside counsel and some direct staff members managed by the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney, leave us no choice but to engage independent legal counsel to eliminate conflicts of interest that compromise the interest of the department and the people we serve.”

The board called for a series of ethics-based corrective actions that aim to “redefine and govern” the relationship between DWP and legal representation provided by way of the City Charter and any city-authorized outside counsel engaged by the department, McClain-Hill said.

“Our goal is transparency, and to ensure that conflicts of interest are avoided through a thorough disclosure process,” McClain-Hill said.

The board also said it would direct DWP’s general manager to hire an inspector general within 90 days, a previously approved position that was publicly posted last week.

David F. Alexander, 54, of Arcadia — DWP’s chief information security officer from May 2017 until February 2019 — will plead guilty in Los Angeles federal court on a date to be determined to a felony charge of making false statements. Alexander also served as the department’s chief cyber risk officer.

Last week, a former DWP general manager, David H. Wright, 62, of Riverside, agreed to plead guilty to a federal bribery charge in the probe. On Nov. 29, Paul Paradis, 58, a New York attorney hired by Feuer’s office, also agreed to plead guilty to a bribery count in the secret scheme to settle a major lawsuit brought against the utility on terms favorable to the city.

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