By Gina Silva, KTTV FOX TV-11, Los Angeles, CA
March 11, 2019
LOS ANGELES (FOX 11) - Alleged misconduct by counsel at the City Attorney's Office may have resulted in millions of ratepayers being cheated out of a fair settlement.
Back in 2015, a class action lawsuit was filed against LA Department of Water and Power for over-billing ratepayers. The case was settled for $67.5 million. Consumer Watchdog’s Jaime Court said, "The settlement was a sweetheart deal for DWP and a bad deal for consumers.”
Nearly four years later, documents filed in LA Superior court, allege counsel for the City of Los Angeles picked its own opposing counsel in the case against DWP, choosing an Ohio attorney they had previously worked with.
“One thing you know, whether you’re an attorney or not, you cannot represent both sides of the case, it’s completely unethical because then you don’t have a real case,” said Court.
Legal documents also allege attorney Paul Keisel’s co-counsel, Paul Paradis, had an attorney-client relationship with the lead class plaintiff, Antwon Jones, while at the same time and unbeknownst to the plaintiff was representing the city's interest.
The question now is, did that attorney relationship lead to a quickie settlement which ended up costing consumers millions of dollars? Court says, “This is all about how the ratepayers were defrauded in a collusive scheme, in a class action lawsuit, where city attorneys basically set the case up to protect DWP and at the expense of ratepayers and taxpayers.”
FOX 11 reached out to City Attorney Mike Feuer who declined an on-camera interview but issued the following statement:
“Mr. Paradis and Mr. Kiesel are no longer involved in representing the DWP and the City in this case, and the entire matter is currently under review. My office adheres to the highest standards of legal ethics. I take any allegation of improper conduct by any attorney under our authority--including outside counsel--extremely seriously. The chips will fall where they fall, and I will take decisive action if this review reveals any breach of ethics.”
A judge has scheduled a special hearing on March 19 and he’s ordered depositions for all parties involved.