Judge dismisses lawsuit against city over handling of LADWP billing
A judge has tossed a lawsuit brought by a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power ratepayer over inaccurate billing that led to a scandal in which the FBI raided DWP headquarters and two of the utility’s executives were sentenced to federal prison, according to court papers obtained Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips sided with Los Angeles in her dismissal Tuesday of the civil rights complaint lodged in December 2020 by Van Nuys resident Antwon Jones.
City Attorney’s Office spokesman Rob Wilcox told City News Service that his office was “pleased the court has dismissed this baseless and malicious lawsuit.”
Jones initially filed suit against the city in 2015 after receiving a DWP bill for $1,374 for four months. At the time, Jones was in his early 20s, living in a one-bedroom apartment without a washer, dryer, dishwasher, or central air conditioning. His usual DWP bill was $25 to $30 a month, according to the suit.
After complaining about DWP online, Jones was contacted by New York attorney Paul Paradis about becoming a plaintiff in a class-action suit to be brought against the city and DWP. Jones signed a retainer agreement with Paradis and his law firm, becoming their client.
Unbeknownst to Jones, Paradis and co-counsel Paul Kiesel were simultaneously retained by the city as it began moving forward with a lawsuit against the contractor involved in the introduction of the billing system. The settlement of the suit required the DWP to reimburse customers about $67 million.
The conflict of interest was hidden by participants for the next five years, according to court papers.
In his 2020 suit, Jones accused the city of conducting an “egregious scheme” and cover-up which defrauded him, violated his civil rights and wasted city funds. He alleged he was used as an “unwitting pawn” and betrayed by his own lawyers, who were secretly working with DWP.
Phillips dismissed the suit with prejudice, meaning Jones is barred from refiling the claim.
In July 2019, the FBI executed search warrants at the DWP as part of its investigation into both the department and the City Attorney’s Office in connection with the scandal.
The probe led to former DWP top executive David Wright pleading guilty to a federal bribery charge. He was sentenced to six years in federal prison in April for his participation in a scheme connected to the botched launch of the computerized billing system.
Former DWP cyber security chief David Alexander was sentenced on June 7 to four years behind bars for lying to the FBI about his dealings with Paradis.
Paradis also pleaded guilty to a federal charge and admitted that he accepted a nearly $2.2 million kickback for his role in the collusive lawsuit against the DWP. He is scheduled to be sentenced in Los Angeles federal court next month.
A fourth defendant, Thomas Peters, a former senior official at the City Attorney’s Office, pleaded guilty to a federal extortion charge and is expected to be sentenced in August.