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Central Basin Water Directors Form Committee to ‘Evaluate’ Newly Hired General Manager

By Brian Hews Central Basin Water Investigation

When former Central Basin Municipal Water District Interim Chief Operating Officer Chuck Fuentes notified Pacifica Services, Inc. President and CEO Ernie Camacho that the CBMWD would no longer accept invoices submitted that did not included detailed explanations of work performed, Camacho eagerly agreed to comply. 

Based on those findings, Fuentes notified Camacho that he intended to bid out the agency’s engineering services and that he had instructed Assistant to the General Manager Ron Beilke to review millions in past billings to determine how the struggling water district had spent upwards of $5 million in fees.

Camacho’s second response was not as congenial as the first.

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

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

Within days of Fuentes’s meeting with Camacho, both he and Beilke were fired by the CBMWD’s new majority, which included James Roybal and Leticia Vasquez, both of whom had accepted in excess of $50,000 in political campaign donations from Pacifica, Camacho, and his affiliates, which included MLJ Properties.

MLJ properties initials represent Camacho’s three grown children Michael, Lisa and Jeffery.

After the firings, Water Resources Manager Dave Hill was appointed to replace Fuentes.  Hill cancelled the audit of Pacifica’s billings and all efforts to re-bid the CBMWD’s engineering services.

Documents show that Hill had been the sole CBMWD employee who approved Pacifica’s previous invoices. According to CBMWD Director Art Chacon, Hill possessed no formal training in construction or engineering and was not qualified to perform such duties.

Hill was subsequently replaced by Tony Perez.

With the recent revelations reported by HMG-CN that CBMWD had made Pacifica the benefactor of 8 consecutive no-bid contract extensions over the course of 5 years earning the Pasadena firm nearly $5 million in fees, Perez suspended the services of Pacifica.

Now, similar to when Fuentes and Bielke started digging into Pacifica, that same majority is trying to fire Perez, sources tell HMG-Community News.

Perez determined that the 8th amendment effective June 25, 2012 provided no additional board approved funding and that since November 2012, Pacifica was being paid for work that the elected board had not voted to fund.

Subsequently, Perez, a licensed civil engineer, discovered that work allegedly performed by Camacho’s firm from November 2012 to June 2013 could cost the financially struggling water agency an additional $1 million.

According to sources familiar with Pacifica and the CBMWD, that is when the process to attempt to fire Perez started.

Perez came to the CBMWD on a 5-0 vote two months ago with impressive credentials. Now, according to sources, he is facing an orchestrated attempt by Pacifica backed CBMWD Directors to terminate him.

Central Basin Director Phil Hawkins. Randy Economy Photo

CBMWD Director Phil Hawkins told HMG-CN that President James Roybal and Vice President Bob Apodaca recently formed an ad-hoc committee to “determine” a process to evaluate the performance of the General Manager.

Sources at CBMWD say Roybal and Apodaca are both seeking to terminate Perez. But they are weary of the fact that if they do not establish a “process”, they will draw too much scrutiny and face more potential lawsuits.

Director Chacon was furious. “This is ridiculous, he’s been on the job for less than 90 days and they already feel the need to conduct performance reviews on the guy?  In my opinion, this is what was to be expected when he gave Pacifica the boot.”

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