City Government Journalism

My Wayward Servant


    The tipster with no Greek accent

David Nahai paid me the highest compliment this week. He took one of my ideas and ran with it. In fact, he ran all the way to another reporter in town – Beth Barrett, the Queen of Spoon-Fed Journalism. He gave her my story!

For six weeks, I’ve been fighting the DWP’s general manager over his water and electric bills. He was telling Angelenos to conserve, but refused to show us whether he was a good role model or not.

Turns out, a repentant Nahai tells the Daily News, he’s been one of those guys who allows his automatic sprinklers to come on when it’s raining. I forgive you, David. It’s yet another reason you earn every day the nickname Water King. But what’s important is that you took my pestering seriously and released all of your bills, just as the law required, and started down the road of reform, just as you asked us to do. I presume a messenger will be hand-delivering my set anytime now.

Maybe I should be peeved at Water King, but I’m not. I’m happy I could help him overcome his reluctance to do his job and become a cheerleader for conservation.

Barrett, on the other hand, deserves to be hauled before the Court of Public Opinion and denounced as a toady for writing a puff piece devoid of even a hint of the real reason that Nahai coughed up his bills and hired an auditor to examine waste at his 6,012-square-foot Benedict Canyon palace. I tried yelling at Barrett in the Daily News newsroom today, but was told she’s on vacation this week. So I asked to be transferred to City Editor Judi Erickson.

Erickson herself was on vacation last week and said she had no knowledge of my ongoing pursuit to pry these records loose from the Water King. No, I didn’t ask her if the cave where she lives stayed cool during the recent heatwave. I believe her, really. Many editors in this town seem to live under rocks or otherwise don’t know what’s going on around them.

So I told her the whole story, going back to the May 15 news conference, my visit with Water King’s wife and son, the Silver Lake press conference where Water King got all testy when I told him he was breaking the law by ignoring my public records request. I told her about Nahai’s very personal and tardy rejection letter, where he said he would be releasing his records in the “near future,” and of my giving Water King a deadline of this Friday to release the bills or be sued.

Erickson laughed at my jokes, so of course I like her, and she agreed when I told her their flawed story made it seem that Water King had taken the initiative and was revealing his bills out of the goodness of his heart. Their misleading story is an embarrassment to Barrett and her editors. And it would have been a hard-hitting story if Spoon-Fed Queen had made it clear how it came to be that Nahai assumed his role-model duties: It took a blogger in town named L.A. Sniper, who threatened a lawsuit, to drag Water King to share the details of his excessive water use and inspire us all to do better. In other words, the Daily News got snookered, and this time no one could blame DWP Commission President Nick Patsaouras and his leaks about hair-brained valley-centric stories.

Erickson said she would talk to the Queen of Spoon-Fed Journalism when she returns from vacation next week. When asked if she, as the editor, would have wanted the story handled differently if she had known all of these details, Erickson said: “We would certainly have asked him more pointed questions about why and when and what prompted this.”

That’s a start, thank you. And Judi, in case you’re wondering whether your reporter cut a deal with Water King, this post from L.A. Now spells out the background missing from her story today.

On second thought, maybe I’m being too kind to Water King. He did embrace my idea, for which I’m thrilled, but he needs to follow my instructions more closely next time. For today, I will call him My Wayward Servant.


  • Hilarious and worthy muckraking, Al.

    I thought you might like to read, or link to, a couple of things the Weekly has done on related issues. First, do you remember Dave Z’s piece on the purported “smart growth” proponents downtown who have the same blustery “Do as I Say, Not as I do” manner? Check it out at

    Second, Christine Pelisek did a great post this week on the amazing puffery published on the front page of the Daily News about Tennie Pierce. I don’t think Ron Kaye would ever have allowed such stuff. Check it out at

    Keep up the great gumshoe-style digging. This is a town badly in need of it.

  • From the Daily News article, not one comment was from Alan. Would you like it if we commented for you, or did you comment and Nahai reported abuse to have it deleted?

    I hope no one gets one of those water cut-off keys from the home center and cuts off his water meter at the street. I suspect that such action could be a misdemeanor unless it was done accidentally.

  • Your Water Pasha also busted on Ch 7 News tonight, complete with aerial views of his home. But by “asking for the audit” he comes off as a self-sacrifice for the public good — hilarious. Other than disagreeing with the method of trying to get his records, I agree that he should have thought about setting a better e.g. much before — keeping his pool heated and uncovered overnight is utterly inexcusable. And homes that big should have several AC/heat zones, drip systems instead of all-weather sprinklers… Plus I’d like to see him use the solar panels DWP has a reimbursement program for. Maybe you can challenge him to show you his bills next year, to see how far he’s come.

  • Thanks LA Sniper. When you have time, could you next go knock on Al Gore’s door and ask Tipper for their fuel bills for their their private jet?

  • Excellent. Just excellent.

    I saw the story on the Web, and heard the Channel 7 report … I was bummed they didn’t credit, much less quote, the Sniper.

    You won a battle, a big battle, but the war continues ….

  • Great work Alan!!

    We will do our part at Mayor Sam to highlight the follies of the “Shah of Water and Power” and his “Savak” of spinsters and enforcers, with approval of “Boss D’Arcy”.

  • Alan,

    I’ve always respected your work, which is why I’m disappointed by this juvenile attack on Beth. Yes, it’s shitty that Nahai took his story to someone else to get back at you for annoying his sensibilities. But I know you know that this kind of thing happens all the time in journalism. And believe me it happened to Beth enough times after she filed public record requests with the city only to have the information leaked to the Times. It’s the game, and calling Beth names is beneath you, particularly when she’s away and can’t defend herself. Besides, Beth would better be know as the Queen of Public Records because I don’t know anyone who has filed more of them at City Hall.

    Also, she wasn’t snookered. She knew she was benefiting from your spat with Nahai. Should she have reported that? Yeah, probably, if for no other reason than it makes a better story. Working journalists these days have to suffer enough unfair attacks by people not in the business, why must we savage each other?

  • Mariel, I think you are missing the point. If Beth knew she was benefiting from Alan’s work and she made a deal with Nahai not to mention the back story then she is a dirty journalist. Sorry if she is your friend, but she messed up. She owes the Daily News readers an apology. Alan did what he had to do to get the real truth out. Beth allowed herself to be used like a tool. Sad.

  • Mariel:

    The Nahai story wasn’t journalism, it was a DWP press release with Beth’s byline on it. And you don’t do her any favors by admitting that she knew the back story and chose to leave it out. That makes her worse than a spoon-fed toady — it makes her a hack. The bigger question now is whether her editors know, and left it out on purpose. Between this story and the Tennie Pierce puff piece, the Daily News under new leadership appears to be tacking on a feckless new course. Is that purposeful direction, or just the aimless wandering of a rudderless ship?

  • The Daily News editorial page acknowledges the spoon-feeding in an editorial today, and implies that either the reporter or the paper made a deal with Nahai to spin it positively for him and omit the relevant back story.

    From the the editorial: Politicians, celebrities and other powerful people have been playing games like this ever since there was a press to play with. It’s unfortunate, and the public likely has little idea of the manipulation that goes on behind the scenes every day just to get public officials to grudgingly provide important information.

    Pathetic and amateurish if that’s what they did.

  • Before you bless someone with a name, I think it’s only fair to have more than one example. I did a brief search on this web site, and I see Beth’s name pops up twice – in this post and the other mentioned her getting the story about Tony V’s lady on the side.

    So Big Al, if you’re gonna proclaim Beth the queen for one apparent mistake, then god knows how much fucking royalty we have in the journalism world.

    It really looks lik Beth got hosed. Maybe she should have done a better job of handling it. Maybe HER EDITOR should have done a better job of handling it than suggesting/implying that Beth was wrong while beth is on vacation. That is bullshit. I guess when you become an editor, you leave your balls and spine at home. Why not say “let me talk to beth so I can get her side of the story and I’ll get back to you.” In this day, it’s not hard to track her down.

    And I do hope that before the DN wrote the editorial (which is fair) they checked in with Beth. I would hate to think there’s more to the story than what’s been mentioned here.

  • Flip, the story referenced by Jill Stewart in Comment 1 above (LA Daily News Sucks Up to Tennie Pierce) also ran under Barrett’s byline.

    Clicking on the link in Stewart’s comment, you’ll find the following analysis: But Barrett’s softball interview leaves out most of the key controversies swirling around Tennie Pierce, and some of those controversies helped discredit Pierce in the eyes of the public.

    It may not be enough to declare a trend, but it’s enough to meet your “more than one example” test.

  • Flop,

    You’re mixing things. Big AL called her a queen based on one incident. He does cite any other example on this blog. He does not mention the Pierce case.

    You are taking Big Al’s example, and Jill’s, to say that it makes a pattern (based on what I wrote.)

    I read Pelisek’s and Barrett’s piece, and I think it’s fair to question Barrett, but I don’t think it’s the same as Big Al’s gripe.

    And I don’t see Jill Stewart agreeing (or disagreeing) with Big Al’s decision to crown Barrett the queen. (Maybe Big Al has a few more coronations up his sleeve.)

    But from what I’ve read by Jill Stewart, and from what I used to hear on KPCC, she’s not the shy and subtle type. So if she agreed with Big Al, she should have come out and said it – unless that was not her.

  • I am happy to see the defense for Beth amounts to only a couple of people who are not very smart. It would bother me if the editors didn’t bus chuck her, as it would indicate they are crooked, too. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?

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