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Thursday February 13, 2014, 4:25 pm
By Randy Economy and Brian Hews
HMG-CN has exclusively confirmed today that Central Basin Municipal Water District Director Leticia Vasquez, despite denying the lawsuit in public and on HMG-CN’s website several times, filed a whistle blower “Qui Tam” law suit in August 2013 against the very agency she was elected to serve, an unprecedented move that could net her over $2 million dollars in damages.
Vasquez is alleging in her lawsuit that powerful law firms and political operatives hired by CBMWD received over $2.75 million from a secret ‘slush fund.’
The slush fund was initially found by COO Chuck Fuentes, Assistant GM Ron Beilke, and Arnold Glassman in 2012.
Under alleged pressure from Ernest Camacho, President of Pacifica Services and, sources tell HMG-CN, a recipient of money from the fund, Vasquez, along with Directors Bob Apodaca and James Roybal, voted to fire Fuentes, Beilke, and Glassman in early 2013.
Camacho, along with convicted felon Rick Mayer and Angel Gonzales, bankrolled Roybal’s and Vasquez’ campaigns in 2012.
The firing and slush fund were first reported by HMG-CN in February of 2013.
The details of the whistleblower lawsuit were officially unsealed by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Susan Bryant Deason this week.
Vasquez repeatedly lashed out at HMG-CN during public meetings saying “the lawsuit never existed,” after HMG-CN exclusively reported the existence of the lawsuit three weeks ago.
In comments left on the HMG-CN website, Vasquez also denied being a party to the lawsuit and demanded a retraction several times. She also sent text messages denying the lawsuit.
Vasquez is claiming in the lawsuit that she and CBMWD are the victims and included large law firms and influential Los Angeles political operatives in the filing.
Named in the suit are the law firms of Segwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, LLP; Buchalter-Nemer; former Central Basin attorney Douglas Wance, attorney Curtis Parvin, and former CBMWD General Manager Art Aguilar.
Vasquez also names “Does 1-50,” which presumably includes former Assemblyman Thomas Calderon, The Calderon Group, as well as Pacifica Services, controlled by Ernest Camacho, and HDR Engineering.
Both Calderon and Pacifica Services are under scrutiny in a complex wide ranging investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement agencies.
HMG-CN was the first to report the FBI probe into CBMWD. Since then, the little known agency based in Commerce has become a lightning rod for investigative journalists as far away as the Middle East, Europe, New York, and throughout every major media outlet in Southern California.
According to the lawsuit, Vasquez said that she first learned from “non-media” and “non-public sources” that “some millions of dollars of Central Basin funds were secretly, improperly and without authority” transferred to one or more bank accounts exclusively owned, controlled and managed by the two law firms Sedgwick and Buchalter-Nemer.
The revelation came from Fuentes, Beilke, and Glassman, in late 2012. Vasquez fired all three in Jan 2013.
Vasquez claims that she made “various and formal and informal inquires” about the fund.
Records show that the first of the Vasquez’ inquiries came in May of 2013, five months after learning about the fund. When asked about why she waited five months to file inquiries, Vasquez refused to comment.
Vasquez is claiming that Sedgwick and Buchalter as well as others, with the assistance of former GM Aguilar “conspired” and “agreed to conceal the theft and transfer of these funds from the public and from law enforcement agencies.”
Vasquez and her attorney Sabrina Venskus also filed a nine page “disclosure statement” in court under the California False Claims Act that includes the names of several other parties whom she claims received hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax payer funds.
In that filing, also obtained by HMG-CN, Vasquez claims that Ronald Calderon and the Calderon Group landed a $140,000 in consulting fees, plus an untold amount in expenses during a closed session held by CBMWD Board Directors on June 28, 2012.
It also claims that $40,000 went to Fabiani and Lahane. Mark Fabiani is a well-established political strategist, crisis management expert, and former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles and chief of staff to Mayor Tom Bradley, and former White House lawyer and spokesman under President Bill Clinton.
But Vasquez was not getting the attention she wanted because of her checkered past. Then Vasquez found a willing player to participate in her whistleblower lawsuit strategy rouse, KPCC investigative reporter Karen Foshay.
Foshay and KPCC entered the CBMWD saga back in May 2013, five months after HMG-CN wrote its first article on CBMWD. HMG-CN had written 14 articles, most slamming Vasquez, Roybal, and Apodaca before May yet Foshay claimed the saga as her own.
That is when Vasquez became Foshay’s source.
Foshay then published a slush fund article in Dec 2013 that made Vasquez look like a hero and a savior to CBMWD, not knowing Vasquez had filed the lawsuit.
Sources inside CBMWD told HMG-CN that everyone involved in the investigation of the lawsuit were extremely angry at Foshay for the Dec. article, and that she could have compromised the investigation writing a story on the fund with Vasquez as a source.
Foshay continued to ignore investigating Vasquez, and, in a recent radio show, mentioned all other players in the fund investigation with the exception of Vasquez.
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