LOS ANGELES (CN) — A former Los Angeles Department of Water and Power attorney has accused LA City Attorney Mike Feuer of perjury, as well as aiding and abetting an "extortion scheme" designed to cover up a lawyer's double-dealing.
Paul Paradis, an attorney who worked for the DWP as an outside counsel, is at the center of a sprawling scandal involving the water agency and the city attorney's office that has already lead to four guilty pleas. In 2021, Paradis agreed to plead guilty to accepting an illegal kickback of more than $2 million. He also admitted to scheming, along with the former general manager of DWP, David Wright, to obtain a $30 million no-bid contract for his company, Aventador.
Paradis' claims about Feuer were made in a formal complaint to the State Bar of California, the agency which licenses and regulates the ethical conduct of attorneys, in February. That complaint became public when it was attached to a court document in Paradis' Arizona bankruptcy proceeding — a Los Angeles Times reporter tweeted out the document Monday. The city has sued Paradis in an attempt to claw back some of the money given to Aventador.
"Paradis' assertions are absurd and nothing more than a malicious attempt by a confessed felon to deflect attention from his own criminal misconduct," Feuer's spokesman Rob Wilcox said in a written statement.
The DWP billing saga began in 2013, when the water agency rolled out a new billing system designed by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The new system was a disaster, overcharging thousands of ratepayers and undercharging others. The city sued PricewaterhouseCoopers and hired Paradis and another lawyer, Paul Kiesel, to oversee the litigation. But Paradis was also been hired by Antwon Jones, a ratepayer suing the city — an illegal conflict of interest.
The Justice Department has said officials in the city attorney's office knew about the double-dealing. Feuer has denied knowing about it, both in public statements to the media and in a 2019 deposition.
Paradis has already said in a January complaint filed with the city's ethics commission that Feuer and other city officials knew about the collusive lawsuits. But the state bar complaint goes even further, accusing Feuer of lying under oath and of knowing about a scheme to pay off a lawyer who threatened to expose the double-dealing.
That lawyer, who'd been fired by Kiesel, had "stolen or improperly retained" certain incriminating documents showing the city's "collusive litigation," according to the plea agreement reached with Thomas Peters, who ran the city attorney's civil litigation division for five years. Peters admitted to pressuring Kiesel into paying off the attorney and threatening to fire Kiesel if he did not.
According to the plea agreement, "senior members" of Feuer's staff knew about the situation and directed Peters to take care of it. Feuer has always denied being in the loop for the extortion bit.
But Paradis' complaint to the state bar asserts otherwise.
"The city attorney's office could not tolerate the fact of the collusive settlement in the Jones v. City of Los Angeles class action becoming public," Paradis says in his complaint. He goes on to say Feuer was in a meeting with Peters in which the "extortion scheme" was being discussed, and that "City Attorney Feuer aided and abetted extortion."
Feuer's spokesman, Wilcox, denied these charges. "The city attorney was never aware of any such threat," he said in the written statement. Paradis's attorney did not return a phone call requesting comment.
The DWP billing scandal is just one of many to hit LA City Hall in recent years. Two City Council members — Jose Huizar and Mark Ridley-Thomas — have been indicted on bribery charges. A third, Mitch Englander, pleaded guilty to falsifying material facts and as part of the plea deal admitted to lying to federal investigators, and was sentenced to 14 months in prison.
Feuer has served as an elected official for 18 years, first as a member of the City Council, then in the state Assembly and now as city attorney. He is currently running for mayor.
A recent poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times put him tied for fourth place, well behind candidates like Congresswoman Karen Bass, City Councilman Kevin De León, and billionaire developer Rick Caruso.
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