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By Brian Hews
President James Roybal, along with Directors Bob Apodaca and Leticia Vasquez of Central Basin Municipal Water District voted to eliminate the embattled water agency’s Ethics Committee this past Monday.
Roybal and Apodaca lead the charge to eliminate the longtime committee that has successfully investigated the two, referring complaints to enforcement agencies such as the District Attorney, the Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC) and the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury. Decisions on prosecution are pending at this time.
On September 25th, CBMWD General Manager Tony Perez forwarded the findings of the Ethics Committee showing that Roybal had been found guilty by the Los Angeles County District Attorney of violating the Brown Act by revealing confidential information in an interview with the press. Perez’ letter was sent to the Civil Grand Jury seeking a possible indictment.
On October 7th, again based on a review by the Ethics Committee, Perez forwarded findings to both the District Attorney and the FPPC seeking an investigation into alleged improper conduct by Apodaca involving his live-in girlfriend Caroline Medrano.
The complaint alleged that Apodaca violated Government Code Section 1090 by approving payments exceeding $11,000 to Medrano for floral decorations. Other allegations in the complaint focused on the possibility that Apodaca committed insurance fraud by adding Medrano to his District paid health insurance benefits.
Hews Media Group recently featured numerous stories detailing the actions taken by Roybal, who tried repeatedly to illegally cancel committee meetings, going as far as to announce that the two Directors that he appointed in January had been stripped of their duties.
“Roybal’s commitment to protecting his strongest Board ally Bob Apodaca has been unwavering throughout, he is simply intent on controlling the further of investigations at CBMWD,” stated Ethics Chair Phil Hawkins. “Roybal finally convened a Special Meeting of the Administrative Committee, which he and Apodaca oversee, just to place the item on the agenda for Board action. That tells you they don’t give a damn about appearances of impropriety,” added Hawkins.
Official language for the item calls for a review and discussion of (the) temporary suspension of (the) Ethics Committee while policy is amended. However, Roybal was uncomfortable with the word “suspension” and joked during the meeting if they could “suspend the word suspend”?
Roybal’s attempt to avoid the connotations of the word “suspend” led to his request for a thesaurus. Finally, a member of the District’s legal team said that they could term the suspension a “hiatus”.
An individual from the public in attendance commented to HMG that, “Roybal’s avoidance of using the word suspend made him look ridiculous and extremely suspicious. The fact that CBMWD has to pay a lawyer to play word games to satisfy the whims of a crazy Board President is an embarrassment,” stated the audience member who wished to remain anonymous.
During discussion of the policy amendment, Director Leticia Vasquez, herself under investigation by the District Attorney for multiple counts of perjury and failure to report campaign contributions properly, recommended that Ethics authority be at the discretion of the General Manager.
Vasquez, who was herself recalled when she served on the Lynwood City Council, had kept her distance from the troubling ethics violations by Roybal and Apodaca’s. However, Vasquez seemed to lead the discussion calling for the suspension along with Roybal.
Director Art Chacon, who serves with Hawkins on the Ethics Committee, was absent for the open session part of the meeting but attended the closed session, expressed disappointment with his colleagues in an interview with HMG.
Chacon called today’s actions “nothing but a cover-up and yet another example of how Roybal simply changes the rules to get what he wants.” Chacon noted that when Roybal and Vasquez were elected in January, their majority, which included Apodaca, promptly rewrote the Administrative Code changing the long established method of selecting the Board President in order to elect Roybal.
“I would think the whole world would agree that by designating the General Manager to oversee potential ethics investigations, that all future investigations will now cease” commented Chacon. “Does anyone really think that the GM doesn’t realize that it only takes three votes to send him packing, I think the majority certainly sent a strong message to him today” added Chacon.
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