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Central Basin President Roybal ‘Illegally’ Cancel Ethics Committee Meeting Centering on Director Apodaca

By Brian Hews and Randy Economy

(Commerce) The Central Basin Municipal Water District which is the focus of a massive criminal probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been hit with another investigation and internal scandal this past week; this time from within the public agency with the spot light again being placed on Director Robert “Bob” Apodaca.

Director Phil Hawkins had called for a special meeting of the committee upon discovering that the District had received a citizen’s complaint against Vice President Bob Apodaca alleging serious accusations regarding potential criminal and otherwise illegal activity.

This past week, CBMWD President James Roybal ignored advice from his own agency’s legal counsel and promptly cancelled a Special Meeting of the Ethics Committee that was scheduled for on Wednesday, Sept. 25th.

Sources inside the besieged agency tell Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper that Roybal actions will most likely result in him facing his own Ethics inquiry, his second in one month, this time on obstruction and abuse of power concerns.

Ethics Committee Member Art Chacon, who represents the greater Commerce area for the District said in an interview that the meeting should not have been cancelled, and that the Roybal “exceeded his authority and ignored the legal opinion provided by District Counsel Rick Olivarez.”

Chacon shared with HMG-CN a copy of a text message he received from Olivarez that stated that Roybal “did not have the authority to cancel today’s scheduled meeting.”

Chacon said that he and Committee Chair Phil Hawkins arrived at the 10:30 am legally posted public meeting; they spotted a notice posted on the door saying the meeting had been cancelled.  Once inside, they were also presented a memorandum from Roybal confirming the cancellation.

The memorandum obtained by Hews Media Group-Community News dated the same day as the Ethics meeting, Roybal expresses his concerns about the Ethics Committee and “the manner in which they use their role in regards to investigating Board Members.”

Roybal goes on to state that as Board President, “it is his duty to assign committee members” and that he is “reconfiguring the Committee to remove Chair Phil Hawkins and to demote member Art Chacon to alternate status effective immediately.”

Chacon said he was outraged and said that Roybal was “orchestrating an illegal cover up.”  Chacon also said “so much for the ‘clean water’ candidate,” citing Roybal’s campaign literature.  “This guy is as dirty as mud,” added Chacon.

Hawkins, who was reelected in 2012 at the time Roybal and Leticia Vasquez replaced two incumbents on the Board, also told HMG-CN that he “loudly expressed” his disgust and disappointment” in the President’s actions Wednesday.  “James Roybal is unfit to serve as this District’s President and is abusing his authority to thwart a legitimate citizen’s complaint,” stated Hawkins who added, “he acts like a Dictator and as such, is an embarrassment to this agency and he needs to be replaced.”  Hawkins went on to suggest that other responsible Directors join him in selecting a new Board President as soon as possible.

As first reported by this paper on August 9th and then again this week online, HMG -CN published details on a citizen’s complaint which cited three allegations leveled at Apodaca all surrounding his longtime girlfriend Whittier Commissioner Caroline Medrano and her links to the District.

Roybal, known to be a staunch ally of Apodaca who endorsed and financially supported Roybal’s election bid, was the focus of his own Ethics Committee inquiry earlier this month that resulted in a submittal to the Grand Jury for possible criminal indictment.  Central Basin had received a letter from the District Attorney acknowledging Roybal’s guilt in violating the Brown Act.

In another HMG-CN exclusive, this paper obtained the letter which stated that Roybal disclosed details of a settlement to the Whittier Daily News which were subject to the agreements confidentiality clause and were not supposed to be released.

According to Director Chacon, as a result of Roybal’s “rogue ways and inability to listen to legal advice and reason,” the District received a biting letter from their insurance carrier, ACWA JPIA, “putting them on notice that Central Basin could potentially be denied insurance coverage if occurrences like Roybal’s tirades in the press continue.”

Chacon stated that Roybal has on at least three occasions made “inappropriate and disparaging comments in the press regarding former District employees which have resulted in significant legal and financial exposure.”

“This guy Roybal is costing us money every time he opens his mouth and goes off in the press,” added Chacon, “he simply doesn’t care because it’s not his money and he insists he’s always right about everything. Canceling today’s meeting is yet another perfect example.”

Director Hawkins see that serious damage is being done daily to the District by the President and that he’s clear what actions need to be taken to stop it.  “Roybal needs to be removed as President, and if any of his colleagues on the Board wish to advocate protecting this criminal and his illegal behavior, then I want to make it clear that I will have no part of that,” stated Hawkins.

Hawkins, a former member of the California State Senate, also claimed that if he is indeed removed by the President from the Ethics Committee, he insists that it must take place in the presence of the entire Board as specified in the Administrative Code.

However, until that time adds Hawkins, “I am still Chair and now that staff and the entire Board are aware that Roybal does not have the authority to cancel our meetings, I will be calling for another special meeting on Monday, September 30, 2013 and we will be adding today’s illegal act by Roybal on the agenda.”

Chacon also took another verbal swipe at Director Apodaca. “It is absolutely sad and comical at the same time that while Apodaca sits at home watching television on his couch, Roybal is out there self-destructing for the guy.”

“Watch who cuts and runs when the going gets rough for Roybal, Apodaca is only in this for himself and Roybal will just have to learn that the hard way I guess,” stated Chacon.

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