Riverside leaders decided Tuesday, Jan. 11, to ask the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office to investigate whether municipal utilities were sent to certain companies when David Wright was general manager of Riverside Public Utilities.
Wright, a 62-year-old Riverside resident who left city council in 2013 and became head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in 2016, agreed in December to plead guilty to the federal crime of taking bribes from a lawyer. in exchange for sending a $30 million no-bid contract to that attorney’s firm, a Justice Department press release said.
The offense carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. In the plea deal, Wright admitted to participating in other illegal schemes while running that department in Los Angeles, according to the release.
Wright worked for Riverside from 1988 to 2013, a city report said. He retired from running the Los Angeles utility in July 2019 while under investigation by the FBI.
Since news of Wright’s plea broke, Jason Hunter, a Riverside resident who once worked in the city’s utility department, has alleged to officials that Wright engaged in illegal activity while in Riverside.
“We just need to open the books and take a look at this,” said Riverside City Council member Chuck Conder, urging the city for the district attorney to investigate. The council voted 7-0 for that investigation.
Supporting the idea, Councilman Gaby Plascencia said, “I don’t want to wait for the FBI to knock on our doors and start an investigation.”
Councilor Steve Hemenway said the investigation should not be done internally by Riverside investigators, but by an outside agency — and as quickly as possible.
City manager Al Zelinka and police chief Larry Gonzales said their offices had not been contacted by federal authorities on Tuesday regarding any misconduct investigation that may have taken place in Riverside.