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Central Basin Director Apodaca Votes to Settle His Own Sexual Harassment Claim

Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 7:50 p.m.

He participated in a closed session meeting on Monday Jan. 6 with President Royal and Director Vasquez while other directors were absent.

By Brian Hews

Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained an audio recording of Central Basin Municipal Water District’s Special Board Meeting on Monday that shows, despite a strong warning of conflict from CBMWD legal counsel, President James Roybal, Directors Leticia Vasquez and Bob Apodaca orchestrating a legal session to settle a sexual harassment and battery claim against Apodaca.

The claim, filed by Sigrid Lopez, seeks $1 million in damages.

HMG-CN first published the claim filed against Apodaca by Lopez in November 2013 that detailed shocking examples of abuse including Apodaca’s claims of “tag teaming” women at District-paid educational conferences.

With CBMWD Directors Phil Hawkins and Art Chacon absent, Roybal, Vasquez, and Apodaca seized the opportunity as a quorum and forged a quiet settlement to Apodaca’s latest incident of alleged sexual inappropriateness.

The three voted to refer the case to CBMWD GM Tony Perez for a decision on whether to send to the Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority (ACWAJPIA) for outside settlement or keep the case in-house. Keeping the case in-house would cause major problems for Apodaca.

An internal investigation of the case, initiated by CBMWD management, began in May 2013 and sources close to the District claim that over 17 witnesses have provided testimony, including all current Directors, two former Directors, numerous current and former staffers and consultants, as well as the longtime girlfriend of Apodaca.

Sources tell HMG-CN that the investigation has cost CBMWD over $30,000, not including considerable and ongoing attorney fees.

In the recording, Richard Padilla sternly advised Apodaca during open session prior to adjournment to closed session, and during closed session, that he should not participate during legal discussions in the matter of Lopez v. CBMWD/Bob Apodaca. Padilla said legal discussions would constitute conflicts for at least two members. He stated, “it may behoove Director Apodaca to recuse himself.”

As he continued, President Roybal silenced Padilla by repeatedly interrupting him during open session, insisting they discuss these issues in closed session, which they did.

In the audio Padilla reported that, “legal counsel and the General Manager provided an update on the claim and the referring of this matter to JPIA. The direction from the Board was unanimous of those present in the closed session proceeding to delegate the claim to the ACWAJPIA. Our legal staff will work with Mr. Perez to verify this can be done.”

HMG-CN contacted Director Art Chacon who had an opportunity to listen to the audio recording and felt that Padilla went “above and beyond” to warn the three about potential conflicts.

Chacon said Padilla went so far as to spell the conflict out by saying “I cannot direct either of you not to be in closed session, however, my admonishing here does not inoculate you from any potential violations you might receive, so I just want to be very clear-you’re on your own.”

Chacon was outraged that Director Apodaca participated in any discussion or vote pertaining to his own legal case. Chacon was also very concerned that Roybal and Vasquez ignored legal advice and allowed Apodaca to discuss and vote on the claim.

Chacon added that he would have preferred CBMWD to handle the matter from within. He said that if our insurance keeps paying for Apodaca’s perversions, then in essence our premiums are akin to paying Apodaca’s dues in some “perverts club.” “Apodaca knows that the ACWAJPIA will find an amount to settle out of court while making the victim sign a confidentiality agreement ensuring her silence, people’s water bills are paying for this guy’s fun and games,” he said.

HMG contacted Director Hawkins who also felt that Apodaca’s participation in the closed session was inappropriate and illegal. “Those three could have held off meeting to discuss these issues until the full Board was available,” he said. “The action they took was to make the handling of a serious matter, the sexual assault of another person, a routine administrative issue to pass off to ACWAJPIA, it’s outrageous,” added Hawkins.

Scott Collins, a 14-year Norwalk Planning Commissioner who has announced that he intends to challenge Apodaca in the November election, says, “he agrees that CBMWD should keep the lawsuit in house and force Apodaca to face his demons. This is why we need a change of leadership at CBMWD.”

When made aware HMG-CN knew of the vote, Director Vasquez first said, “there was no vote on that matter, there was no quorum.” Her statement, in direct conflict with the statement on audio by Padilla that said, “the direction from the Board was unanimous of those present in the closed session.”

Vasquez was then told HMG-CN possessed the audio tape and she repeated that “there was no quorum on the issue therefore no decision was made, but it would be great to see and hear them for accuracy; please forward them to me.”

Three hours after Vasquez was made aware of the story, HMG-CN received an email from CBMWD scheduling, “a special legal matters meeting on the Apodaca case” for next Monday Jan. 13.

Calls and texts into Roybal and Apodaca went unanswered.

 

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