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By Brian Hews
Embattled Central Basin Water Director James Roybal, the target of a recall movement started in March of this year, has been charged by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) with twelve violations of the Political Reform Act.
The violations stem from a co-complaint filed over three years ago after a Hews Media Group-Community Investigation uncovered the violations.
The investigation and subsequent complaint stated that Roybal did not report over $3,300 in small cash contributions.
The FPPC staff report stated that “probable cause was found to believe Roybal committed the violations under Section 84211 (a), (c), and (f) of the Act.”
Those violations indicate that Roybal intentionally left off over $3,300 in contributions from his statements.
The probable cause finding gathered the violations into three counts. Each count could carry a maximum fine of $5,000.
Roybal has requested a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge, but it is up to the FPPC to conduct a hearing, the agency is under no obligation.
The twelve violations included “Roybal and the Committee failing to disclose” a $200 contribution from Henrietta Correa Salazar, $250 from Marcy Gloria Grajeda, $500 from Edward Sarkissian, Jr., $150 from Betsy Chang, $100 from Victor Caballero, and $400 from James and/or Michele Ciampa.
A $250 contribution came from Golden State Advocacy owned by Robert Garcia, who had a large consulting contract with Central Basin.
Roybal and the Committee failed to disclose a $250 contribution from Romejan, Inc., $100 from Antonio Mendoza, $500 from Southwest Management Consultants, and $250 from Davenport Management, Inc.
An obscure donation of $400 came from the “Model City Democratic Club.”
An internet search of Model City Democratic Club shows that the Club, based out of Commerce, is a sub-page of a larger website called Democracy.com.
The page has since been removed
Democracy.com allows users to create campaign donation pages with relative ease, with no background checks.
According to a source familiar with the parties involved that did not want to be identified, “The FPPC’s findings are just the tip of the iceberg. Roybal’s campaign financing was all smoke and mirrors while being managed by convicted felon Ricardo “Rick” Mayer. Roybal was a nobody with little resources and no contacts when he was handpicked to run by another water agency, the Water Replenishment District (WRD). His only qualifications as a candidate was his famous last name of which he had no family connection to and the fact that he would follows orders of those who put up the money to get him elected. And that’s just what he’s done. In the meantime, his inept understanding of water and governments and his desperation to line his pockets with any loose change he can steal has left Central Basin in shambles. He’s a pitiful bully with a Napoleon complex who was also forced out of his job at the LA Unified School District because he felt entitled to have his way with children. It’s my understanding that documents proving that fact will also be made public soon as well.”
Hews Media Group-Community News exclusively learned in March that Roybal was served with a Notice Of Intention (NOI) to Circulate Recall Petition. The NOI was signed by 20 voters residing in municipalities within Roybal’s District 1 and was served on Roybal at a morning committee meeting at CB’s headquarters in Commerce.
NOI’s must state reasons why an elected official should be recalled. Some of the reasons given on the Roybal NOI highlighted, “his incompetence that caused irreparable harm and financial damage to CB.”
The NOI also slammed Roybal for his assignment to LAUSD Teacher Jail, and Roybal receiving compensation from the LAUSD and CB at the same time, a violation of LAUSD policy.
Both violations were first reported by HMG-CN.
“While working at L.A. Unified School District, Roybal was assigned to teacher jail, a facility used to separate teachers from school children. While assigned to teacher jail, Roybal concealed his teacher jail assignment, and was dishonestly paid by both CB and LAUSD, leading to an investigation by the LAUSD and his eventual forced retirement.
The NOI went on, “Roybal leaked a confidential settlement document to the media, resulting in a lawsuit and a $50,000 payment to the plaintiff.” Roybal also, “blatantly ignored CB’s insurance carrier who threatened to cancel insurance for board dysfunction, with his inaction resulting in cancellation of CB’s insurance in mid-2014.”
Lastly the NOI stated that Roybal, “Ignored lawyer’s advice by voting to waive attorney-client privilege in Qui Tam whistleblower lawsuit filed by CB Director Leticia Vasquez. The suit cost CB over $200,000 in legal fees, and potentially hundreds of thousands more in additional fees.” It also outlined Roybal’s decision “to fire former General Manager Tony Perez for cause, once again against CB attorney’s advice, resulting in a $700K payment to the GM, and CB losing its insurance for a second time in 2015.”
The proponents signing the petition include voters from nearly all the cities in Roybal’s district, including two from Montebello, three from Bell Gardens, eight from Downey, and seven from Roybal’s home city of Pico Rivera.
Roberta Ruiz of Downey, one of the proponents signing the petition, commented, “Roybal’s tenure has been dominated by acts of incompetence, dishonesty and cronyism. His “double-dipping” while in teacher jail should immediately disqualify him from elected office. How can we allow an official that can’t even be trusted to be in the same classroom as our children, to make decisions on a vital resource such as water? It’s time for a change at Central Basin, and it can’t happen soon enough.”
The embattled water agency has been under intense media and legislative scrutiny over the past three years, ever since Roybal (and Vasquez) first took office in January 2013.
During Roybal’s time in office, HMG-CN exclusively reported on a number of controversial decisions and actions taken by Roybal and his voting partners, Bob Apodaca and Leticia Vasquez.
Many residents have emailed HMG-CN and left comments on its website asking why the F.B.I. and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office have not taken action based on the published articles.
Some of the articles include HMG-CN first reporting that Roybal and Board ally Leticia Vasquez had their campaigns funded in large part by convicted felon Rick Mayer, aided by felon who pled down to a misdemeanor Angel Gonzales, owner of Pyramid Printing.
Other stories included Roybal’s leaking of a confidential settlement agreement with former General Manager Chuck Fuentes to the Whittier Daily News, resulting in a lawsuit and total payments to Fuentes of over $70,000; the approval of the payment of $670,000 to settle a sexual harassment and battery lawsuit against Director Bob Apodaca, and joining Apodaca and Vasquez in voting to waive attorney-client privilege to allow the costly qui tam lawsuit to continue.
HMG-CN confirmed over 9 months ago with two attorneys that Vasquez is a “party plaintiff” in the Qui Tam lawsuit.
That action took place over protests by CB’s General Counsel that the vote was illegal because of Vasquez’s conflict of interest.
Calls to Director Roybal for comment were not returned at the time of this posting.
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