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Central Basin Directors to Hold ‘Illegal’ Vote to Clear Way for the Qui Tam Whistleblower Lawsuit

Roybal three

[l-r] Central Basin (CB) Director Leticia Vasquez, Vice President James Roybal, and President Bob Apodaca have placed on the CB Oct 9 agenda a vote to remove the attorney-client privilege clearing the way for Vasquez’ Qui Tam lawsuit, where she stands to make millions off the agency she was elected to represent.

 

Item is on the Oct. 9 agenda along with a $100,000 retainer  for the L.A. based  law firm of Tafoya and Garcia to “investigate” GM Tony Perez. Tafoya has connections to Water Replenishment Districts’ “Lil” Al Robles.

By Brian Hews

Hews Media Group-Community News has learned that Central Basin Water (CB) Director Leticia Vasquez along with Vice President James Roybal and President Bob Apodaca, will vote to waive attorney-client privilege that will clear the way for the Qui Tam Whistleblower lawsuit that Vasquez filed as a ‘party plaintiff’ against the embattled Commerce water agency.

HMG-CN has reported that Vasquez stands to make over $2 million if successful in her lawsuit, filed against the very agency she was elected to serve two years ago.

According to a recent CB audit, the lawsuit has cost the agency over $270,000 in fees as of June 2014.

At an earlier Qui Tam hearing in September, Vasquez’ attorney Jimmie Johnson, who argued there was a waiver of attorney client privilege, was soundly rebuked by Judge Susan Bryant-Deason who ruled, after hearing other evidence, that  no  waiver of  attorney-client privilege occurred.

Sources have told HMG-CN that Johnson is good friends with Vasquez’ husband Ron Wilson.

As a result, Deason ordered Johnson to provide a waiver from the CB Board within 30 days or face dismissal of the whistleblower lawsuit.

The hearing was set for Oct. 10 and Vasquez plan, according to sources, was put in motion to provide that waiver.

The plan started at a heated CB meeting two weeks ago, where Vasquez, Roybal, and Apodaca moved to ‘suspend’ General Manager Tony Perez from the position he has held for just more than a year, while also removing Phil Hawkins as president.

Perez has over 3 1/2 years remaining on a five-year contract.

Perez and Hawkins were instrumental in closing the biggest water sale in the history of CB.

The three voted in Apodaca as president and Roybal as vice president.

Following Vasquez’ plan, Apodaca then placed the attorney-client privilege item on the agenda with the vote taking place this Thursday, Oct. 9, at noon.

The vote, which would have never occurred while Hawkins was president, takes place one day before what would have been, according to the ruling by Deason, the final hearing and dismissal of the controversial Qui Tam lawsuit.

HMG-CN contacted three attorneys who all asserted that the lawsuit would be dismissed if the attorney-client privilege were not waived.

The three attorneys also told HMG-CN that Vasquez is “definitely a party plaintiff” because she brought the action on “behalf of the governmental agency” and in no way should she be voting on anything related to the Qui Tam lawsuit from the dais.

Vasquez has denied several times and demanded retractions from HMG-CN for including her as plaintiff in a series of articles published during the past six months.

CB has also asked two law firms to look into the matter and whether it is legal for Vasquez to cast an attorney-client privilege vote, with sources at CB telling HMG-CN that both firms will say it is a conflict of interest and she cannot vote.

Pay-to-Play Scheme 

HMG-CN has been told that the foregoing was just one part of a complex pay-to-play scheme to allow Vasquez’ Qui Tam lawsuit to proceed while possibly netting Roybal and Apodaca thousands.

After suspending GM Perez, Vasquez handed Perez over 100 “violations” allegedly committed by him since April 2013.

The violations were never given to Directors Chacon or Hawkins, violating CB’s procedural meeting rules.

Following the pay-to-pay plan, CB placed on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting the approval of a $100,000 retainer to the Los Angeles based law firm Tafoya and Garcia to “investigate” the Perez violations.

Included in the item is a $20,000 deposit.

Directors Chacon and Hawkins told HMG-CN that they had no knowledge of the $100,000 agenda item, nor have they ever seen a $20,000 up front deposit given to a law firm.

Tafoya and Garcia represented Water Replenishment District (WRD) in a lawsuit against CB three years ago and was also paid $100,000 by WRD for their “representation.”

The case was later dismissed without going to trial.

Tafoya, according to sources, is also very good friends with “Lil” Al Robles, WRD Director and Carson Councilman.

“Tafoya and Robles went to college together, Tafoya dated Robles’ sister, they are very close friends,” said one source.

Tafoya and Garcia also represent the city of Lynwood where CB Director Vasquez was successfully recalled in 2009.

Inside sources at CB are also saying that PGI, an investigative firm out of Mission Viejo, has been retained since last Thursday “with three investigators working 9-10 hours per day” looking into the Perez violations.

One high-level source at CB told HMG-CN, “this is part of Vasquez’ plan. They are going to take part of the Tafoya retainer, and the billings PCI is generating, and finance Apodaca’s campaign. They will also finance the campaign against Director Chacon. And don’t forget Roybal, he will get an award for voting for the retainer. I know that Vasquez is also trying to hire convicted felon-plead down to a misdemeanor Angel Gonzales to “assist” in advertising and printing for CB. It is like the Calderon’s are back.

Scott Collins, a former candidate who ran for Apodaca’s seat said, “Tafoya and Garcia’s contract seems like the perfect ‘license to bill’, much like the contract held by former CB vendor Pacifica Services.  Pacifica and its agents are listed on the 460 campaign contribution documents as having donated in excess of $34,000 to the campaign war chests of Apodaca, Vasquez and Roybal, you figure it out.”

“I don’t understand why the district is spending money trying to force a qualified and competent general manager like Tony Perez out,” added Collins.  “It seems to me that at this point in the process, albeit a scam process, things need to play out to see if the district even needs to retain additional attorney services.  Given that $100,000 is being thrown at a firm with ties to Vasquez and ‘Lil’ Albert Robles so quickly, I’d be concerned about the underlying reasons in play here. I’m interested in who Vasquez and Roybal are endorsing to oppose Chacon in November, that’s where the money’s headed.”

 


 

Below is one attorney’s response to HMG-CN’s questions about Vasquez’ as a “party plaintiff” to the Qui Tam lawsuit:

Qui tam actions: The California False Claims Act (Gov.C. § 12650 et seq.) authorizes an individual (“qui tam plaintiff”) to sue for a violation of the Act on behalf of a defrauded governmental entity. [Gov.C. § 12652(c)(1)]

Although the governmental entity is the real party in interest, it does not become a party unless it chooses to intervene. [See Armenta ex rel. City of Burbank v. Mueller Co. (2006) 142 CA4th 636, 641, 47 CR3d 832, 835]

The Act makes a limited, conditional, partial assignment of the governmental entity’s claim to the “qui tam plaintiff” (up to 50% of any recovery, if the governmental entity declines to join the action). [See Gov.C. § 12652(g)(3)-(5)]

The result is that the “qui tam plaintiff” has a personal stake in the action, and standing to sue on the governmental entity’s behalf as well as his or her own. [Armenta ex rel. City of Burbank v. Mueller Co., supra, 142 CA4th at 641, 47 CR3d at 835]

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