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Wednesday February 5, 2014, 4:15 pm
By Randy Economy and Brian Hews
Sources inside the Central Basin Municipal Water District are telling Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper that outspoken Director Leticia Vasquez leaked privileged information to a local radio reporter regarding the ongoing criminal investigation into the now infamous “slush fund.”
At least three sources that work inside the Commerce-based water utility told HMG-CN on the condition of anonymity that Vasquez allegedly provided billing invoices from the law firm Arent Fox to CBMWD regarding the law firm’s participation in the investigation into the $2.75 million fund.
This newspaper was the first to report the existence of the fund several months ago.
According to the sources, the only people at CBMWD who possessed the billing invoices were Vasquez and Arent Fox Attorney Michael Zweiback.
Zweiback and Arent Fox is representing CBMWD in the fund investigation.
The sources said that any documents officially released to a media outlet would have the invoice explanations redacted or “blacked out.” Other details would be also be blacked out due to attorney-client privilege.
In a request made months ago, HMG-CN received all billings from Sedgwick in relation to the slush fund consisting of hundreds of pages. All explanations were redacted, with only the amount of billing showing.
“The only information you could read from the invoice should have been Arent Fox and the amount billed,” said the source.
HMG-CN has been told that Vasquez received the billing invoices via a public records request from the agency. Non-board level release of documents via a public records request would require redaction.
“Director Vasquez interfered with a criminal investigation that is currently taking place here at CBMWD for her own political gain,” a source inside the agency told HMG-CN. Arent Fox is representing CBMWD in a criminal investigation, leaking these un-redacted documents would be considered obstruction of justice and Vasquez could be liable for criminal prosecution if found guilty.”
“We were working closely with the FBI on the investigation, this maneuver impacts the trust between the two organizations and could hinder future cooperation.”
In the online article by KPCC FM Radio earlier this week, Doug Johnson, a government affairs expert and Fellow at Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute commented extensively on the contents of the billings, indicating they were not redacted.
KPCC reporter Karen Foshay quoted Johnson in her article saying, “the attorney invoices provide a glimpse into what’s happening behind the scenes of the federal investigation. They are spending hours on these calls. Coordinate [ing] witness interviews. Prepared [ing] documents in questioning interview prep sessions. They are even coaching the board members and employees on how to interview when meeting with the US Attorney’s office.”
“Vasquez had made herself a ‘confidential source’ for Foshay’s stories, leaking details of the slush fund to promote her own reformer agenda,” said a CBMWD source. “She wants to cash in on her whistleblower complaint against agents, top management and vendors of Central Basin.”
HMG-CN has learned that high-ranking officials at CBMWD and at Arent Fox were outraged by the KPCC article and that they are contemplating filing an official inquiry into the matter with Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
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