A months-long dispute between the City Council and the Department of Water and Power ended Tuesday when the utility agreed to release $73.5 million that it had withheld during the battle over power rates.
DWP Interim General Manager Austin Beutner, in an hour-long grilling by the City Council, also pledged to bring a new sense of "civil discourse" in dealing with the council and greater openness with the public.
The agency had withheld the $73.5 million from the city general fund last month after the City Council rejected a DWP electricity rate hike. The funds were the last installment of a $220million contribution that represents the utility's annual expected transfer to boost the city's general budget.
While the council in March had rejected the utility's first effort at a rate hike, it recently allowed a smaller increase.
The Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved the $73.5 million transfer without comment after it was assured in a report the money was available.
"We are pleased that as a result of the compromise reached by the City Council and DWP Commission, the DWP is able to make this transfer to the city," Villaraigosa said.
Beutner, who is in the process of finding a permanent general manager, said he hoped to bring about a new sense of cooperation and openness in dealing with officials and the public.
"I don't know exactly what has transpired in the past, but it doesn't seem to be an open and honest interchange or communication," Beutner said.
"I think it's important we have an open, transparent and civil discourse with all policy makers, including the mayor, the commission, the City Council and the public."
Beutner, who came to work for the city as a $1-a-year advisor to Villaraigosa in January, said he hopes the department's budget, to be released in the next several weeks, will show the DWP's priorities in a clear fashion.
"The choices we make on where we should spend our money over the next five, 10, 15 years, should be clear to everyone. The DWP is different in that it needs to make decisions that take a long time to implement."
Beutner said a presentation to him on the budget "might as well have been written in Greek, and I don't know Greek."
He said he has asked for a new presentation that will provide more understandable information on where the DWP's money is spent.
The dispute over the transfer, linked to an increase in a portion of the power rate, created a major controversy at City Hall.
Villaraigosa had originally supported a .8 cent per kilowatt hour increase, with .3 cent of that to go into a special fund for renewable energy projects.
In March, the City Council balked at that, saying it would support only a .6 cent increase, which would amount to about $4 on the average residential bimonthly bill. The board of Water and Power Commissioners, trying to get the rate increase in effect on April 1, had tried to get through a compromise of .7 cent - a suggestion vetoed by the council.
With no increase in effect, the DWP said it could not make the final portion of its transfer to the city's general fund.
The council last month repeated its offer of a .6 cent increase, taking effect on July 1, which was accepted by the DWP board.