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EXCLUSIVE: Central Basin Municipal Water District’s New Law Firm Hired Under Questionable Circumstances


Central Basin GM Kevin Hunt

Central Basin GM Kevin Hunt

Central Basin President Bob Apodaca

Central Basin President Bob Apodaca

 

By Brian Hews

Hews Media Group-Community News has learned that Central Basin (CB) President Robert “Bob” Apodaca and newly hired General Manager Kevin Hunt  met privately with the Los Angeles based law firm of Nossaman LLP, who had connections with the Calderon family, in direct violation of CB procedures for hiring firms that contract with the Commerce based water agency.

Sources are telling HMG-CN that CB Vice-President James Roybal also met with Nossaman representatives.

On April 6, 2015, HMG-CN was first to report that Nossaman had applied for and won the CB lobbying contract under similar suspicious circumstances.

Nossaman LLP is a national law firm with 160 attorneys and policy advisors located in seven offices throughout the United States.

A review of Nossaman’s website by HMG-CN found that the firm had previous connections with the Calderon family, “…Nossaman advisors are well respected in Sacramento, reflecting the strong legacy of former Senators Dick Ackerman, John Foran, and Charles Calderon, former Assembly Members Jack Knox and Bill Bagley, and California’s longest serving Legislative Counsel, Bion Gregory.

Both Apodaca and Hunt have previous ties with the Calderons and Nossaman, respectively.

Hiring Procedure
HMG-CN was told that the procedure for hiring a law firm for CB initially starts with a top administrative “panel” interviewing potential firms.

To ensure transparency, the GM along with CB Board Members do not participate in this process.

The firms are classified and only those designated as “Tier 1” move on to closed session interviews with the GM and Board Members after which a decision is made.

The winning firm is announced at the next CB Board meeting.


 


But in a recent meeting, CB Directors Art Chacon and Phil Hawkins were stunned when they were told by Hunt, “President [Bob] Apodaca and I met privately with Nossaman recently.”

The meeting between Apodaca, Hunt, and Nossaman took place prior to the closed session interview of potential law firms, violating the procedure for hiring and calling into question the entire hiring process.

One week ago, HMG-CN exclusively reported that Apodaca was the unnamed “local elected official” cited in a recent FBI court filing in the Calderon corruption case. The article also revealed that Apodaca had failed to file “Form 700 Statement of Economic Interest Form” with the Fair political Practices Commission, a major violation of the Political Reform Act.

The article connected Apodaca to the Calderons in a pay-to-play scheme to land Ron Calderon’s brother Tom, a lucrative contract with CB.

Charles Calderon worked for Nossaman as a consultant right around the time Apodaca was working for Charles’ brother Sen. Ron Calderon.

Hunt Connections to Nossaman

In 2014, KPCC reported that Dick Ackerman, who is a senior member of Nossaman, had been on several MWD rate payer financed trips with his wife Linda, who is an MWD Board member, and one with Larry Dick, another MWD board member who represented the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC).

Ackerman and his PAC donated to Dick’s water district campaign, and Ackerman and his Nossaman law firm received a contract from the MWDOC.

Current CB GM Kevin Hunt was general manager at the Municipal Water District of Orange County from 2004-2013.

CB Director Art Chacon was perplexed about the whole situation. “Kevin told me several times that our current law firm, Glassman, was the best, then all of a sudden Glassman is not the best and we need to go with Nossaman? The interesting fact is that Glassman was the lowest bidder and Nossaman was the highest and that Nossaman’s monthly contracted hourly rate jumps after a certain amount of hours. Why did we have this ‘hiring process’ when they do deals like this behind everyone’s back?”

Chacon went on, “this has been a pattern with CB. Rick Oliveras overbilled us, then we brought in [Arnold] Glassman and our fees dropped precipitously. Now we bring in Nossaman, who won the CB lobbying contract, who was the highest bidder, it does not make sense.”

CB Director Phil Hawkins told HMG-CN, “here we go again, for some reason certain people are ignoring the lessons from the last time CB dealt with the Calderons.”

 

 


 

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