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Op/Ed: Los Angeles County Needs to Take Control of Central Basin Municipal Water District

Years of corruption and Board control by a dysfunctional majority leave take-over by County Supervisors as only solution to fix the beleaguered water agency.

By Brian Hews

The time has come, the Three must go.

For the past two and a half years, the Central Basin Municipal Water District (CB) has been the target of numerous articles published by HMG-CN documenting the incompetence, potential criminal behavior, and self-serving decisions perpetrated by the Board majority of President Bob Apodaca and Directors Leticia Vasquez and Jim Roybal, the “Roybal Three.”

HMG-CN has reported that the actions by the three have cost the ratepayers hundreds of thousands, and potentially millions of dollars in unnecessary civil litigation and mismanagement.

The Roybal Three, on numerous occasions, have treated the District’s funds as their personal ATM machine, making decisions while ignoring the advice of legal counsel and professional staff, with predictable results.

HMG-CN’s reporting prompted the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to pass an urgency motion in September 2014, calling for a state audit of the agency.

Supervisor Don Knabe, a frequent critic of CB said at the time, “Frankly, the behavior and dysfunction at the Central Basin is absolutely out of control.  I am concerned about their ability to perform their primary function – maintaining water availability and services to the constituents we represent.  So today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved my urgency motion to request a comprehensive state audit of the Central Basin and put a contingency plan in place for another agency, or even our own Public Works department, to take over.  We cannot put more than 2 million people in 24 cities and unincorporated Southeastern Los Angeles at this kind of risk because of the outrageous and bungling behavior of this Board.”

The time has come, the Three must go.

In March 2015, HMG-CN was first to report that the California State Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee ordered a financial audit of the water agency.  The audit was in response to a letter to the committee, signed by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell), Anthony Rendon (D-South Gate), State Senators Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), and Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach).  The audit is currently ongoing and is expected to be complete before the end of the year.

The escapades of the Roybal Three have been well-documented, some of the “highlights:”

BOB “TAG TEAM”APODACA:

Central Basin President Bob Apodaca

Central Basin President Bob Apodaca

Nicknamed “Tag Team” after he was overheard saying he “tag-teamed” woman at a convention. Longest standing member of the CB Board with over 17-years of service.  Apodaca is widely considered to be a puppet for powerful contractor Ernie Camacho, president of Pacifica Services Inc. (PSI).  Apodaca’s common-law wife is the first cousin of Camacho.  Apodaca as Board President has steered numerous sole-source contracts to Camacho over the years, totaling over $5 million.  In exchange, Camacho has been Apodaca’s largest campaign contributor.  In 2013, Apodaca was sued for sexually battering a former CB employee, which eventually settled out of court for $670,000.  HMG-CN broke the story that Apodaca has made a deal with federal law enforcement to testify against the Calderon brothers, who have been indicted for money laundering and bribery in a wide-ranging corruption investigation.  Apodaca has been identified as a “phantom employee” placed on former Senator Ron Calderon’s payroll in exchange for Tom Calderon to retain his high-paying consultant job with CB.

 

 

 

 


 

LETICIA”QUI TAM” VASQUEZ:

Central Basin Water District Director Leticia Vasquez, who took office only one year ago, is a party to a whistleblower lawsuit against the very district she was elected to represent.

Central Basin Water District Director Leticia Vasquez is a party to a whistleblower lawsuit against the very district she was elected to represent.

Elected to the CB Board in 2012.  Vasquez previously served on the Lynwood City Council, where she was recalled in 2007 amid corruption charges.  In 2013, she became a “party plaintiff” in a Qui Tam “whistleblower” lawsuit against former contractors and employees of CB, alleging that the defendants created a trust fund to escape public scrutiny while steering $2.7-million to themselves.  Vasquez stands to make over $2 million if she prevails in her suit.  Vasquez orchestrated an illegal vote with her voting partners, Apodaca and Roybal to waive attorney-client privilege in order for her Qui Tam suit to continue.  Vasquez is widely suspected of falsifying, then leaking a confidential federal subpoena in order to slander Board-adversary Phil Hawkins.  Leaking of a federal subpoena is a violation of state and federal law, punishable by up to 20-years in jail if convicted.  She is currently under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

JIM “TEACHER JAIL” ROYBAL:

CB Director  James Roybal

CB Director James Roybal

Elected to the CB Board in 2012.  Roybal immediately orchestrated a political alliance with Apodaca and Vasquez, seating himself as president of the Board.  Shortly after Roybal was seated, Roybal’s campaign manager, convicted-felon Rick Meyer approached CB Director Art Chacon giving Chacon a list of demands and physically threatening Chacon if he failed to comply.  Roybal ignored legal counsel’s advice and leaked details of a confidential settlement with former General Manager Chuck Fuentes to the media, prompting an additional subsequent lawsuit.  While Board President, Roybal eliminated the Ethics Committee to halt investigations of charges made by a private citizen against Apodaca and himself.  HMG-CN broke the story in November 2013 that Roybal was assigned to Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) “teachers’ jail”, where teachers are held if their behavior is so egregious that they cannot be allowed to remain in the classroom.  Roybal was drawing full salary and benefits while assigned to teacher jail, while also receiving a salary from CB, a violation of LAUSD’s rules.  HMG-CN’s reporting prompted a LAUSD investigation which led to Roybal’s separation from LAUSD in June 2014.

The Roybal Three are making the decisions regarding the District’s water supply during a time of historic drought in California.  Is it any wonder that the District is on the brink of collapse given the work history of the Board majority?

The time has come, the Three must go.

Every member of the Roybal Three have either been investigated and been found lacking, are under investigation, and/or been recalled.  All three, despite constant media attention and scrutiny, refuse to modify their behavior and listen to their lawyers, professional staff, and affected local elected officials; but continue to make decisions which are counter to the best interests of the District.  Instead, decisions are made that are for personal gain, to escape investigation, or both.  Clearly this Board majority is too arrogant, too dysfunctional, too incompetent, and too committed to outside interests to effectively govern.

HMG-CN sincerely hopes that the State Audit Committee fully understands the turmoil, damage and liability that has been created by this dysfunctional Board majority.  The District’s liability insurance has already been cancelled twice in a year (to be cancelled once is an unheard of occurrence in a public water utility), and the current insurance premiums have doubled despite coverage being cut in half.  One more mishap, which seems inevitable given the current Board make-up, will probably render the District uninsurable.

The District’s debt-coverage, the critical indicator of an agency’s credit-worthiness has fallen to a dangerously low level, raising alarms on whether the District has the financial capacity to operate.

The time has come for the State Audit Committee to complete their analysis and return a recommendation that the Central Basin Municipal Water District needs to be taken over by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, to protect the interests of the 2-million residents dependent on the District for the safe and reliable delivery of high-quality water.

The time has come, the Three must go…. before it’s too late.

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5 Responses to Op/Ed: Los Angeles County Needs to Take Control of Central Basin Municipal Water District

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  2. Anonymous Reply

    August 18, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Just like they were warned about, Moody’s just declared Central Basin is on a credit downgrade watch because their finances have been so poor, as well as the huge turnover in management and the glaring lack of any credible future financial plans to get out of it. The County really needs to step in to prevent any further damage.

    www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-places-Central-Basin-Municipal-Water-Districts-CA-Aa3-certificates–PR_332709

  3. Leticia Vasquez Reply

    August 13, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    More false and fabricated stories from this newspaper. Who is the author of this “Op/Ed”? On numerous occasions, you have refused to retract the many FALSE statements you have and continue to print about my actions as a board member at Central Basin Municipal Water District. I ask you again, please respond to my numerous requests for retraction or I will be forced to take legal action against you and your newspaper.

  4. FLFF Reply

    August 13, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Agreed.. the three MUST go – preferably to jail!

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