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By Brian Hews
Hews Media Group-Community News has exclusively obtained the settlement documents related to the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former female employee with the Central Basin Municipal Water District against Director Robert “Bob” Apodaca that resulted in a massive $670,000 payout for the victim.
Sigrid Lopez, who worked as a public outreach director with the Central Basin Municipal Water District filed the sexual battery lawsuit against Apodaca in 2012 alleging, among other things, that her contract was not renewed because she refused Apodaca’s sexual advances.
HMG-CN was the first newspaper to uncover and report about the lawsuit. Since then, several other news agencies, radio talk shows, and news broadcasts have reported on the coverage.
Westlake Village-based law firm Sottile-Baltaxe filed the fifteen-page complaint at Los Angeles County Superior Court back in November 2013 on behalf of Lopez, who worked for the embroiled public agency for just six months in 2012.
In the lawsuit, Lopez alleged that Apodaca began making lewd comments shortly after she was hired. Lopez claims that Apodaca would speak to her in person or contact her via phone asking her “who do you blow,” telling her “he would not mind laying into her,” and boasted about “tag teaming” women at conferences he attended, among other things.
The suit also requests damages in eight different areas, the most serious of which include assault, battery, and sexual battery. Lopez alleged that Apodaca engaged in a series of inappropriate actions, including trying to kiss her and attempting to stroke her hands and thighs. These actions required Lopez to seek medical attention, which she continues to this day. The lawsuit did not specify her injury.
Lopez further claims that she is still suffering from mental anguish because of her ordeal.
Lopez’s lawsuit also says she repeatedly reported the sexual harassment to the Board, the upper management, and the general council of the CBMWD but no action was taken and the harassment was allowed to continue. Lopez alleges that Apodaca retaliated by not renewing her contract.
The settlement in the case was reached on June 10, 2014.
In the settlement, Apodaca and Central Basin Water District did not admit “guilt” in the case, and Lopez has agreed not to pursue additional legal action against the agency.
Apodaca has become a lightning rod for controversy over the past several years as an elected member of the five-director agency that is the focal point of a massive criminal probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Justice and several other agencies.
HMG-CN was the first news agency to exclusively report on the details of the criminal probe that has already resulted in the arrest of California State Senator Ronald Calderon and former Assemblyman Thomas Calderon. Both are facing several years in Federal prison if found guilty. Their trial is expected to begin in late November.
Apodaca is fighting for his political life as a director at Central Basin, and is facing long odds of being reelected in the upcoming November election. Apodaca’s main opponent is business executive Tom Malkasian, who has already garnered the support of dozens of area elected officials and community leaders, including LA County Supervisor Don Knabeand former Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante. Also running is La Mirada businessperson Noel Jamies, and James Becerra who lists his occupation as a college professor and a resident of Whittier.
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