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DIRTY WATER: Central Basin Directors Vasquez, Roybal Owes Campaign Cash to Convicted Political Figures

Central Basin Water District Board Members Leticia Vasquez and James Roybal.

Central Basin Water District Board Members Leticia Vasquez and James Roybal.

By Brian Hews 
Recently elected Central Water District Board Directors Leticia Vasquez and James Roybal ran on a campaign of “cleaning up the corruption” at the besieged public agency that serves millions of residents throughout South East Los Angeles county.
They pounded their respective opponents, incumbents Rudy Montalvo and Ed Vasquez in campaign materials that painted the two as having cozy relationships with “cohorts and partners in crime.”
What Vasquez and Roybal didn’t tell voters, exposed last week in LCCN, is that the two people overseeing and directing their campaigns have convictions for political crimes in the past.
Former felon Ricardo “Rick” Mayer, and political consultant Angel Gonzalez, who donated huge sums of money, were the two key figures responsible for getting Vasquez and Roybal elected.
And both Roybal and Vasquez now owe the two a lot of money.
An examination by LCCN of the California Form 460 Form F, which documents Accrued Expenses and Unpaid Bills, show that both Vasquez and Roybal owe the two convicted figures more than $40,000.
Vasquez told state officials that she still owes Gonzalez at least $18,399 for campaign signs and mailing costs, more than eight months after being elected last June.
Roybal owes $22,878 to Mayer in expenses.
Los Cerritos Community Newspaper has been told by several sources that both Mayer and Gonzalez could be rewarded for their connections with Vasquez and Roybal by being granted consulting contracts that could bring in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.

Since taking office on January 7th, 2013, in less than one month, Roybal and Vasquez joined ranks with long-time Director Bob Apodaca and created a new “voting bloc majority” at Central Basin.

Within one week of being sworn into office, the three fired Chief Operating Officer Chuck Fuentes, along with Assistant to General Manager Ron Beilke and Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman. They also ordered all contracts to be reviewed.

The three also changed the Administrative Code and removed President Art Chacon from overseeing the Board just barely one week after he was seated for the position. Roybal is now serving as president of the five-member board.

The three also immediately removed CBMWD Director and Cerritos resident Phil Hawkins from his long held seat on the board of the Metropolitan Water District. Hawkins served as chair of the important Real Estate and Asset Management Special Committee.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe was angered about the recent decision to remove Hawkins from his key slot.
“I’m very upset to see Phil removed from his MWD seat. Phil has been a tireless advocate for the Southeast area on water issues and his tenure means a great deal on such a large Board as the MWD. His experience as Chair of the Real Estate and Asset Management Committee will be missed,” Knabe said.
“When reached by phone, Hawkins was equally as angry, “They removed me for no reason. It’s all about egos. We were doing a good job there; we were actually making money. Roybal was going to take my seat, but his school commitments prevented that, so now Leticia will be taking the seat, and she has zero experience.”
Roybal as president is now in a powerful position, responsible for forming committee, items that will be allowed on the agenda, and what contracts are vetted and reviewed before they come to a vote.

Vasquez is no stranger to political controversy. South Gate Councilman Henry Gonzalez, who is considered to be one of the most respected elected officials in Southeast Los Angeles County told LCCN in an interview on Monday that Vasquez is as “dirty as they come.”

“She was groomed by convicted felon and ex-Lynwood Mayor Paul Richards, she knows how to play dirty, and doesn’t care about rules. Leticia does what she wants,” the South Gate councilman said.

In 2005, former longtime Mayor Paul Richards was convicted of steering $500,000 worth of city contracts to a front corporation he secretly owned and was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison.

Gonzalez understands just how rough politics can be. In 1999, then at age 64, he was shot in the head by an assailant after he returned home from a South Gate City Council meeting.

“Listen, I understand politics around here better than anyone. Everyone needs to pay attention on what’s going on over at the Central Basin Water District, especially in light of what has taken place just this past month alone,” said Gonzalez.

Vasquez has also doled out campaign cash to both Gonzalez and Mayer in the past.

Gonzalez was paid $4,000, and Mayer’s firm R&M Associates garnered an additional $2,000 in past campaigns. Gonzalez owns Pyramid Printing in Los Angeles and is a well known figure in Southeast politics and recall campaigns and has also done work for former Artesia Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, as well as several local city councilmembers.

Next Week: Los Cerritos Community Newspaper will have exclusive interviews with both Vasquez and Roybal.

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