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Protesters Rebuke Central Basin Director Leticia Vasquez at Metropolitan Water District  Swearing-In  Ceremony

By Brian Hews

Embattled Central Basin Water Board (CB) Member Leticia Vasquez’ second go-round at becoming a member of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) Board of Directors was met with dozens of protesters holding signs along with public comment citing her unfit qualifications and questionable character.

Two speakers blasted Vasquez and talked in detail on why she was unworthy of serving on the powerful water board for a second time.

“A complete and utter case of humiliation and embarrassment,” was how one attendee at Tuesday’s noon meeting at MWD’s Union Station headquarters described Vasquez’ disposition to Hews Media Group-Community News.

Longtime CB Director and former State Legislator Phil Hawkins was unceremoniously removed from his MWD post a few weeks ago.  The removal followed a alleged deal that was negotiated between CB Board President Bob Apodaca, Vice President James Roybal, and Vasquez.

Sources familiar with CB claim that in exchange for Vasquez’ MWD appointment and the hiring of law firm Tafoya & Garcia, Vasquez agreed to support Apodaca and Roybal’s demand to fire former General Manager Tony Perez.

The firing was allegedly ordered by Pacifica Service’s influential President Ernie Camacho.

Camacho had stated that he intended to see Perez fired for his role in exposing the $5 million in no-bid contracts Pacifica received from CB between 2008-2012.

Those contract extensions have been extensively reported in this paper.

Perez, a retired 22-year MWD Senior Engineer with 3 ½ years remaining on his 5 year General Manager contract at CB, was fired for unspecified cause in October 2014.

Apodaca, Roybal, and Vasquez then voted to retain the services of Tafoya & Garcia, and according to Board Member Art Chacon, allegedly manufactured evidence to support Perez’ termination.

“This firm has currently billed CB in excess of $100,000 to make up evidence that does not exist in order to justify an unjust and illegal termination,” stated Chacon who also added, “if and when Perez decides to sue this District, he’ll win hands down.”

A HMG-CN investigation published Jan 12 of this year revealed that Tafoya and Garcia had billed CB over $91,000 in fees related to the investigation into the alleged violations against Perez.

Massive billings were also submitted by private investigators working with the law firm on the Perez case. Total amount of the investigator billings has reached $36,000.

All billings were generated in only 34 days.

See entire story, click here.

According to Chacon, “its open season right now for throw-away contracts that add no value to our ratepayers.  I would now expect a contract to be extended to Southwest Management Consultants run by Apodaca’s childhood friend Leon Garcia.”

Sources told HMG-CN that Garcia was seen dining at MWD in the member’s dining room before Tuesday’s meeting with Apodaca,  Vasquez, and Ernie Camacho’s son Michael Camacho who is also a MWD Director from the Inland Empire area.

“It’s scary to think of the ways Apodaca, Roybal, and Vasquez are contemplating wasting CB funds in the months ahead…given the inactivity of various legal authorities, they think they’re immune from scrutiny,” said Chacon.

Norwalk resident Scott Collins blasted Vasquez at Tuesday’s meeting saying, “Vasquez is a divisive figure on the CB Board who has consistently led the district into turmoil and serious legal entanglements while seizing every opportunity to personally enrich herself financially as well as her dubious cohorts.”

The meeting was broadcast live on MWD’s website.

Collins added that Vasquez was a “political ally and puppet of Lil’ Albert Robles.”

In May of 2014, Robles came under a conflict of interest investigation by the Los Angeles District Attorney for simultaneously holding seats on the Carson City Council and the Water Replenishment District.

Collins cited published reports by HMG-CN stating that Vasquez is currently under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for her role in illegal votes, the Los Angeles County District Attorney (DA) for suspected residency violations, and the FBI for her role in leaking and forging federal subpoenas related to the ongoing Tom Calderon investigations.

See story click here.

The other speaker was equally as passionate as Collins saying, “Vasquez’ intentions are not sincere and her tenure on the CB Board is destroying the agency.”

The speakers and the room full of protesters holding signs stating that Vasquez was unfit and a disgrace to MWD visibly shook Vasquez.

Vasquez was heard giggling during her speech and told attendees that she was a “tough girl” who grew up in Compton, “which was probably why everyone was picking on her.”

During her swearing-in ceremony, former MWD President and Montebello businessman Phil Pace extolled the virtues of Vasquez’ years of public service citing her often repeated claim of being Lynwood’s first Latina Mayor, even though she was recalled while serving on that council.

Collins noted, “it was obvious Pace was uncomfortable talking about Vasquez given her sordid reputation and the protestors, you have to question why a man of his stature would walk out on such a plank for a character like her?”

Pace is a known associate of Bob Apodaca and the Calderon brothers and loaned Apodaca $5,000 during his successful campaign late last year.  In return, Apodaca led the effort for CB to retain Pace to head a committee to search for a new General Manager.

Many have questioned Pace’s motives for so closely aligning himself to Apodaca, Vasquez, and Roybal.

Apodaca was the subject of a $670,000 sexual harassment settlement just months prior to his reelection.

James Royal served a high profile 1 ½ year stint in Los Angeles Unified School District’s notorious “Teacher Jail” for what fellow CB Director Art Chacon contends involved the mistreatment of children.

Chacon has repeatedly called out Roybal during televised CB board meetings for his possibly inappropriate role involving young children.  Roybal has continually refused to comment on the reasons for his reassignment to Teacher Jail and was forced to retire from teaching last June amid calls for his termination and prosecution.

Interviewed after the meeting, Collins complimented the other speaker who followed him to the podium.

The speaker referred to allegations that Vasquez has a history of leaving MWD boards meeting immediately after role call.

Board members receive pay for each meeting attended.

“That gentleman raised an excellent point and I think the entire MWD Board and it’s staff are now aware of Vasquez’ unprofessional behavior and I believe her days of scamming the system are over,” said Collins.

MWD Board Member and Long Beach Vice-Mayor Suja Lowenthal took action after hearing the two speakers slam Vasquez.

Lowenthal asked MWD’s Ethics Officer Deena Ghaly to look into the allegations made about Vasquez, in particularly the claims of her FPPC, DA and FBI investigations.

“Suja was definitely being sensitive not to attack a fellow colleague, but it was obvious she saw the good-name of the MWD being diminished and tarnished by the likes of Vasquez,” stated Collins. “I think the facial expressions of the entire MWD Board during public comment spoke volumes.”

HMG-CN reviewed the video stream of the meeting and saw that no one on the MWD Board applaud Vasquez’ reappointment.

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