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Political Contributor Banked Millions From Central Basin Municipal Water District Contracts

Contract extended seven times by CBMW executives, sidestepping the agency’s Board of Directors.

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By Brian Hews
(Commerce)~Central Basin Municipal Water District (CBMWD) documents obtained exclusively by  Hews Media Group-Community News show that a contract given to Pasadena based Pacifica Services, owned by politically connected CEO Ernie Camacho, has netted his company more than $5 million during the past six years,  including nearly $1.2 million since June 2012.

Documents also show that Camacho’s contract was extended seven times by CBMWD executives who sidestepped any formal approval by the five-member Board of Directors.
Camacho is considered to be one of the most politically influential figures in East Los Angeles political circles.

The eighth and final amendment to the agreement indicated that Pacifica would determine the “method, details, and means” of performing the services basically allowing Camacho’s company to operate without any approval or oversight from the District’s Governing Board of Directors.

The approved contract was signed by then General Manager Art Aguilar, who has since retired.

Click here to see contract.

Officials at Central Basin told HMG-CN that they cannot “legally dispute” any work performed or bills submitted since June 25, 2012.

Pacifica was awarded a $600,000 12-month competitive bid contract in September 2007 to provide technical services during the construction of the Southeast Water Reliability Project to provide recycled water from an area in Pico Rivera to the Montebello Golf Course.

The Montebello Golf Course is owned and operated by the City of Montebello.

One member of the Montebello City Council, who did not want to be named publicly, said they had “never heard of Pacifica Services and had no idea about the agreement between Pacifica and Central Basin.”

“This is news to me, I have no idea who Pacifica Services is or what they represent,” the elected official said.

The contract was extended seven times, valued at over $4 million, without further competitive bidding and by all accounts was done outside of the public glare.

One source, who was close to the process, but requested anonymity, told HMG-CN,  “by anyone’s standards, bidding only one time over nearly six years while pocketing millions and millions of the public’s money is off-the-charts in terms of unusual, but that’s exactly why CBMWD is at the center of this latest storm.”

Another source told HMG-CN that no Board action took place that authorized funding for the modification anywhere near the amount that has been currently billed by Pacifica. “In fact, payments already made of approximately $600,000 were done without Board approval, which are illegal, and an additional $200,000 have been remitted.”

The source told HMG-CN that personnel, directed by then Interim Chief Operating Officer Chuck Fuentes, and Assistant to the General Manager Ron Bielke, at CBMWD were tasked with evaluating the Pacifica contract.

The process involved reviewing millions of dollars of Pacifica’s invoices and interviewing key staff about the validity of the charges, including determining if rates charged were “industry-standard”. There were questions as to whether part of the work invoiced was ever started.

“Given the amount of money involved and the fact that no competitive bidding had taken place since 2007, we had every reason and right to look upon every charge with a microscope” said the source.

The investigation into Pacifica abruptly came to a halt in 2012 when Fuentes, Beilke, and the District’s legal counsel Arnold Alvarez-Glasman were fired.

The vote was 3-2, with longtime member Bob Apodaca, who is related by marriage to Pacifica’s CEO Ernie Camacho, and the two newly elected members Jim Roybal and Leticia Vasquez voting to terminate.

According to California State Conflict of Interest disclosure filings, Roybal, Vasquez and Apodaca have accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Pacifica Services and another firm MLJ Property Management that is located at the same address as Pacifica in Pasadena.

The source said, “this is where the FBI should be looking next, these three are the new kings of pay to play.”

In an interview with HMG-CN, CBMWD Director Art Chacon said that he has been “fighting for years to break the lock Pacifica has on CBMWD’s engineering contracts.”

Chacon cites a 2012 Board meeting where he questioned the District’s management pushing a record setting eighth no-bid extension to Pacifica.

At that same meeting, Chacon also questioned why Apodaca, whose common-law wife Caroline is first cousin to Ernie Camacho, did not excuse himself from voting on Pacifica contracts.

Chacon said that Apodaca “exploded” into a tirade against him, saying at one point that he’s been “trouble” since he got elected in 2006.

According to Chacon, it was March 2012 when District staff was “desperately” trying to push a two-year, $2.2 million final no bid extension to Pacifica. At that time, all previously approved funding for Pacifica had been exhausted.

“I fought that extension month after month,” stated Chacon, “and they kept bringing it back. I saw no reason to give Pacifica two more years.”

With all efforts to secure an eighth extension dead, the Board finally sided with Chacon’s request that the District put the contract out to bid.

Apodaca was the lone no vote.

According to the source, that’s when questionable changes seem to have been made to Pacifica’s existing contract.  “The way the contract was modified, Pacifica was basically allowed to bill as they saw fit on a monthly basis until such time that the contract went out to bid.”

Chacon adds that one excuse after another was given by management, “they seemed to be stalling,” he said.

When personnel, directed by Fuentes and Bielke, began investigating the contracts and billings, Fuentes told HMG-CN that he was threatened by Vasquez and Roybal to not terminate any contracts until they were sworn-in in January.

Fuentes and Bielke kept the investigation going and were subsequently fired, with Roybal and Vasquez siding with Apodaca to terminate their employment.

Thereafter, Roybal, Vasquez, and Apodaca pushed to promote the district’s Water Resources Manager Dave Hill to the interim General Manager position to replace Fuentes.

According to the source, the 8th extension signed by Aguilar was written by David Hill and, “of course he didn’t take the contract out to bid, because he’s the one who wrote the questionable modification as well as being the one who approved all their invoices. Hiring Hill was akin to the fox watching the hen house.”

The new General Manager Tony Perez subsequently replaced Hill.

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attorney helpMike TysonLeticia VasquezBrian Hewsbrian Recent comment authors

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attorney help
Guest

Howdy, I hopped over to your blog page via Facebook. Not an item I regularly read, but I appreciate your views nonetheless. Thanks a lot for composing some thing worthy of reading!

Leticia Vasquez
Guest
Leticia Vasquez

Thanks you for the forum to answer questions regarding Central Basin. After reviewing several posts above, I see there are NO questions rather opinions, half truths and false statements. I will check back periodically for question and will gladly provide responses.

Mike Tyson
Guest
Mike Tyson

No, this is what an opinions looks like Leticia, you’re a COWARD and a LOSER! Sure aint’t no half truth or false statement:)

Harvey Levin
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Harvey Levin

Apparently Leticia has went awol. $5000.00 from Camacho, an unreported fundraiser hosted by Andy at his Olvera Street restaurant? Donations from Ron Calderon & Tom Calderon….. I am shocked that anyone who knows this woman’s background would be surprised by what she did to win this water board seat. She’s tight with Lit’ Al Robles, the godfather of dirty water, with Ron Wilson, her crocked ambulance chasing old man, RIck Mayer, the former felon director at Central Basin and on and on and on… The Feds and the LA County District Attorney all have their sights set on her and… Read more »

Don Belongia
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Don Belongia

Leticia,

You have stated that you have worked hard to combat and fight corruption. Can you cite some cases or examples of how you fought corruption and what were the outcomes?

Don

Mike Tyson
Guest
Mike Tyson

ATTENTION: HAS ANYONE SEEN DIRECTOR LETICIA VASQUEZ’ RESPONSES TO OUR INQUIRES YET? Talk is cheap…….and so is this woman!

victor
Guest
victor

Which Gil Ce DILLDO, Sr or Jr should go to jail ?

Ronnie Wilson
Guest
Ronnie Wilson

Wow, it is such a small world that two Ron’s -Aikens and Washington, could BOTH have the same first hand knowledge of Apodaca’s martial status and about the thought process and reasoning that exists in Art Chacon’s mind when he votes? I’m dazzled, I can barely get over it! Guys, how about the PowerBall numbers for this Wednesday? I don’t think it’s a secret that fatso isn’t married to Sweet Caroline. She’s simply referred to as “Bob’s wife” (even by Bob himself), so as not to have to refer to her as ‘that girl that Bob shacks up with!” Plus… Read more »

brian
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brian

Please remove or edit this comment. I hope it is obvious to the editor of this site which paragraph and sentence I find troublesome. These insinuations create division and discord within. Please keep your comments related to the article. Dear Editor, You have been very understanding with me in regards to these attacks. I would hope you continue to be as helpful and from this point on, as discussed, pay more attention to content of comments. Although a last name is withheld, the mention of relationship is just as damning and hurtful. Thank you for your time,

Mike Tyson
Guest
Mike Tyson

Brian, these people weren’t moaning and groaning while they were taking all these kickbacks and grabbing all that booty! So all of a sudden they have “feelings”?? We’ve had feeling working here at Central Basin and do you think they gave a cra_? What goes around comes around and I’m sure Uncle Ernie can make them feel better by sending them on a cruise or something, heck, would n’t be the first time!?

Ron Aikens
Guest
Ron Aikens

you people could qualify for SCIFI editors! When is someone going to write a story about you only listening to the Chacon clan? The article about Pacifica didn’t mention that it was Director Chacon who at the direction of the owner of DelTera pulled the RFQ that was out for bid last June!!! It seems his contributor could not bid because he was getting thrown off another project at the time! Oh by the way — Bob Apadaca is not married, Also if you had bothered to check Pacifica has saved CBMWD millions by doing the design as staff augmentation… Read more »

Ron Washington
Guest
Ron Washington

When is this newspaper going to put a real story and not just publish lies from that Crook Chacon? 1st is Apacdoca isn’t even married – 2nd that contract was put out for bid but CHACON pulled it because his contributor DelTerra couldn’t qualify so his kickbacks went out the window! Come on guys quit embarrassing yourselves with twisted garbage and before you publish actually get the REAL STORY

victor
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victor

This news paper has no need to exlain to you anything. you are mad because they are right on spot on all thier southeast stories.
Get a life or better get a good lawyer cause you all going to need one.
Thanks to Los Cerritos community News for thier effort to bring to light corruption in Southeast Cities. Unlike THe Wave Newspaper that has been MIA in that area.

Poor Step Daughter
Guest
Poor Step Daughter

It’s ABOUT time! Central Basin Municipal could NOT be any further in the gutter than it is at this moment. We know more employees are on the verge of being cut loose, hopefully starting with that pathetic waste of payroill Gil Cedillo Jr. It’s been two LONG years that he has milked the ratepayers while being groomed to lead CBMWD into it’s next era of corruption and cronyism. It is absoluteluy sickening that he has fed his bank account just because of daddy “one-bill Gil” -another scumbag taxpayer-welfare subsidized do nothing politician. The voters never learn and I’m sure will… Read more »

brian
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brian

Once again, I ask this comment be edited or removed, from the post name to the insinuations included.

I am not a lawyer but I do believe your inability to edit these comments for such false and demeaning allegations is borderline libel. Regardless of full names.

Thank you

OMG
Guest
OMG

Ms. Vasquez:

Were not you recalled from Lynwood council? In Jan this paper reported you and you buddy Roybal, getting $45K from Rick Mayer a convicted felon and you still owe him money.

Now apparently you have no idea what is going on at Central Basin, as this contract was approved you then voted to fire Fuentes and Beilke when they were investigating the contract and now you want to claim you knew nothing?

How in the hell did you get elected?

Coco Nunez
Guest
Coco Nunez

Leticia Vasquez, didn’t you have a prior bout with the Feds?
You need to check out CWB’s Public Information Officer Joseph Legapsi, he’s a former employee of the Calderon clan. I would like to know why he isn’t allowed to speak freely to the media and also how did he get his job?
Is this another payoff? Bet you can’t get rid of him?
Leticia,you are a two faced, loud mouth witch (with a B). Recall is too good for you!

Virginia Johnson
Guest
Virginia Johnson

Right now the Pacifica group is doing something at the Senior Housing on California and Tweedy (San Antonio) in the City of South Gate per our City Agenda on June 25th. Pacifica came in during Albert Robles convicted felon ex treasurer regime. I hope the Water Replenishment District gets an expos`e also.

Leticia Vasquez
Guest
Leticia Vasquez

Editor’s note: Ms. Vasquez is a Central Basin Director elected in June 2012. I welcome any and all questions on or about issues pertaining to my actions on the Central Basin Municipal Water District. I have and will continue to work in the best interest of the public. This newspaper fails to represent the facts about the issues it purports to cover. Regarding this article, I have NEVER voted on issuing or extending a contract to Pacifica Services. Since my election and swearing in Jan 2013, I have worked on fighting the corruption that had plagued Central Basin. I can… Read more »

FLF
Guest
FLF

This is what happens when you have uber liberal money grubbing demorats controlling EVERYTHING top to bottom for DECADES!

No wonder my old assembly rep the ARROGANT A-HOLE and illegal alien lover Tony Mendoza wanted to get on the Water Board! He KNEW where the money train was located! Glad he never made it. But do NOT count him out – this uber liberal socialist con-artist is gonna be back someplace in CA politics in 2014, and LOOKING for free money, YOU CAN BET on that one!

Jay Gray
Guest

Great job Brian and Randy!! Don’t allow them to let this one go away quietly. Have you tried interviewing locals Sally Flowers (former employee) and Phil Hawkins (14-year Central Basin Director)? I really want to know if our area’s representative at Central Basin, Hawkins, was asleep at he wheel, too busy doing his own “thing” at WMD or part of this B.S. After all during the last election he insisted there was NO corruption at the Central Basin. I believe he specifically stated those exact words on video made by LCCN. Also, with all this corruption and wasted tax payer… Read more »

Walter Cronkite
Guest
Walter Cronkite

Tip of the iceberg! Money has controlled Central Basin for years and years and we are so disappointed that the two jokers who were sworn in in January have proven to be even more corrupt! James B. Roybal and Leticia Vasquez are even bigger crooks who have totally violated the public trust by lying about their true intentions. Roybal is a known alcoholic and egomaniac and Vasquez likes to play double agent and works both sides of the fence. These two are real pieces of work! Both Roybal and Vasquez have banked tens of thousands in brides from this particular… Read more »