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Exclusive: Business Owned by Central Basin Director Apodaca’s Wife Paid Over $10,000 by Agency

By Brian Hews

(Commerce) In documents obtained via a public records request, Hews Media Group-Community News found files detaling over $10,000 in District payments to Director Bob Apodaca’s widely acknowledged common-law wife and Whittier City Commissioner Caroline Medrano, as well as to another Whittier area firm that District sources claim Medrano utilized to conceal a bulk of her fees.
The charges totalling $10,276 were for “floral arrangements” provided for special events at the embattled water agency as well as for employees and friends of District.
The documents compound concerns that may result in further legal challenges for longtime Director Apodaca.
Apodaca has recently come under fire for his ties to controversial Central Basin contractor, Pacifica Services, Inc, as well as being the subject of a $1 million sexual harassment claim filed by another vendor for the District.
Apodaca represents the cities of La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Whittier and South Whittier.

An audit of invoices and statements received by HMG-CN indicate that between 2003 and 2004, invoices for floral arrangements were submitted by, and paid directly to Apodaca’s “wife” Caroline Medrano.

In 2006 until 2008, Medrano again submitted invoices for the same services; however, payments were issued to B. Marshall & Co.

The address on those invoices listed a Whittier home located at 8633 Ocean View Ave. Medrano and Apodaca have resided since 1998 about a mile away on Sargent Ave. in Whittier. HMG-CN investigation into B. Marshall & Co. has proved ellusive.

Beginning again in 2010 until as recently as this past April 4th, invoices submitted to the District have again reappeared in the name of Medrano.

HMG-CN also noted that all invoices appearing in Medrano’s name appeared to have her remitting address redacted. Sources at Central Basin claim that was done at the request of Director Bob Apodaca presumably to avoid providing conclusive proof that he and Medrano reside together.

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The files document several large invoices for floral arrangements ordered specifically for events where Apodaca was featured proximately including his 2008 Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) which Apodaca ran for as a candidate representing Special Districts in 2007, a 2007 $1,500 invoice to celebrate Apodaca’s 2006 Central Basin reelection that revealed 52 separate centerpieces and vase arrangements.

By comparrison, former Director Rudy Montalvo also celebrated his board appointment installation in 2007 that featured only 7 arrangements at a cost of only $189.44.

Other charges included $2,911.93 for two Central Basin BBQ’s held in 2006 and 2007 while Apodaca was President as well as a floral arrangement given to former Central Basin employee Gil Cedillo Jr. in celebration of “National Administrative Assistant Day” in 2010.

HMG-CN was the first to report Cedillo Jr.’s annual salary of $112,970 as well as being paid $22,000 up front to attain a job-required college education. Cedillo Jr. was eventually terminated last week by the District with six additonal weeks of severance.

The most recent charge that appears was dated April 4, 2013 for a “funeral service floral arrangement” sent to Ernie Camacho in Pasadena. Camacho is President and CEO of Pacifica Services, Central Basin’s longtime engineering management service provider that was sued by the District in Superior Court last month for fraud, breach of contract and deceit.

Camacho and Pacifica have long been at the center of controversy at the District for having received 8 consecutive contract amendments and extensions that were not subject to a required open bidding process. It is also acknowledged that Caroline Medrano is the cousin of Ernie Camacho and that Bob Apodaca has repeatedly been questioned about his practice of not recusing himself from voting in support of Central Basin contracts reportedly to be in excess of $5 million since 2007.

The invoice for the floral arrangement sent to Camacho in April indicates it was requested by Board President James Roybal. Roybal also voted not to sue Pacifica and was the recipient of $5,000 in campaign donations from Ernie Camacho.

Bob Apodaca’s campiagn records indicate that he has received in excess of $50,000 in campaign support from Camacho’s companies and family over the past decade.

Apodaca has been the longest serving and most controversal figure on Central Basin’s Board. First elected in 1998, Apodaca worked on the staff of former Assemblyman and longtime Central Basin consultant Tom Calderon. Calderon, along with his younger brother and Senator Ron, are currently subjects of an intense federal corruption investigation.

Apodaca has also received attention for being the focus of numerous sexual harassment complaints, one reportedly involving Caroline Medrano’s daugther, Kara Medrano. Ms. Medrano was employed at the water agency for almost three years from 2006 until 2009 as the District’s Legislative Analyst.

According to former Director Montalvo, he acknowledged being aware of an incident involving Apodaca and Medrano where Director Art Chacon and former Director and Board President Ed Vasquez witnessed Apodaca “groping” Medrano in his shared District office.

According to current Director and former State Assemblyman Phil Hawkins, the (sexual harassment) situation swirling around Apodaca is “a cancer that we have to cut out of our system before it kills us.”

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This was not the first time Apodaca’s spending habits have drawn negative attention to the agency.

It was reported in 2008 that Apodaca was paid nearly $100,000 over two years for meetings, travel and communication allowances. Half of those costs came from attendance at District and Metropolitian Water Board meetings. Then other half he received for mileage, transportation, registration fees, housing, meals and a monthly communications allowance.

At the time, General Manger Art Aguilar stated in response to Apodaca’s excessive costs to the District “I don’t think it’s outrageous, you need to compensate these people for the efforts they are putting in.”

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