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Apodaca Friend Leon Garcia Paid $10,000 by Central Basin Via Sole Source Contract to Attend Quagga Mussel Meeting

 

By Brian Hews

Kevin Hunt

Hews Media Group-Community News has exclusively learned that Central Basin Municipal Water District (CB) General Manager Kevin Hunt awarded a questionable “sole source solicitation” contract to Leon Garcia, the controversial long-time friend of CB President Bob Apodaca.

The contract was for only two months and paid Garcia, who owns Southwest Management Consultants, Inc., an eye-opening $10,000.

The contract stated, “the District requires performance services of Local Advocacy Services that was requested through ‘Sole Source Solicitation, ’ the execution of this Agreement was approved by the District’s General Manager in accordance with the District ‘s procurement procedures through a written ‘Justification Memo’ dated September 6th, 2017. ”

Leon Garcia and CB President Bob Apodaca

 

The scope and objectives of the contract were limited to one-half of a page and required Garcia to simply submit an invoice outlining his services to “Project Manager” Joseph Legaspi.

The contract also allowed for Hunt to authorize additional compensation for “extra work determined to be necessary. ”

“I am shocked, ” said CB Director Art Chacon, “Hunt was warned several times not to give Leon Garcia a contract, this is like the old days, handing out contracts to a Central Basin Director’s friend. ”

Chacon’s anger was justified as Garcia has a checkered past. In 2008 Garcia was found spending thousands on meals and travel as an Upper Valley San Gabriel Water Board president, spending over $35,000 in travel over a two-year period. The average cost for his fellow directors over the same period was $13,000.

Garcia was voted out of his board position later on.

The contract was made even more questionable give that CB had awarded almost $25,000 in contracts in July 2017 related to the quagga mussel.

A $6,000 contract was awarded to Daniel Reynolds for “Negotiation of the Quagga Mussel Issue, ” and an additional $18,574 was awarded to Ed Means Consulting for “Developing a Quagga Mussel Control Plan. ”

“Ed Means is a friend of Hunt’s,” Director Hawkins told HMG-CN.

 

 

 

When asked to comment, the normally talkative Hunt, at least when quoted in the Whittier Daily News, was constrained saying, “the District engaged the services of Southwest Management Consultants on a temporary basis to provide assistance and counsel on regional water issues important to Central Basin. ”

Garcia’s purported company, Southwest Management Consultants, Inc., is not listed  under the California Secretary of State’s corporation search or a limited liability corporation search.

The Los Angeles, Orange, or Kern County Clerks do not list Southwest in their fictitious business name database.

Part of the scope called for Garcia to report “on the impact of leadership changes at Upper District and identifying support in the Central Basin service area for preserving the District’s two seats on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern (MWD) California Board. ”

But, it is another part of the scope that could have more officials crying foul about the true objectives of the contract.

 

 

Garcia was asked to provide CB “assistance and counsel” and “report to Hunt and Apodaca on the progress of the quagga mussel issue at the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District. ”

According to the contract Garcia would, “attend the September and October Board Meetings of the Upper District and provide emailed summary (of the quagga mussel problem) to Central Basin General Manager (Hunt) for each meeting. ”

The quagga mussel is a dreaded invasive shellfish that can wreak havoc on local ecosystems, reducing the oxygen supply in water they invade and killing off local fish populations. The shellfish can also plug dam openings, creating problems in the event of heavy rain and floods.

It is unknown if Garcia has expertise in the marine biology issues surrounding the quagga mussel; emails into Garcia went unanswered.

CB Director Phil Hawkins was indignant, “if, and that is a big if, we needed information on the quagga mussel problem, we should have hired an expert and paid him hourly. ”

“I don’t know why we hired a political hack like Leon Garcia and paid him $10,000. ”

And recent events involving the quagga mussel issue will call the objective of the contract-and the money paid to Garcia – into even more question.

On October 3, it was reported that officials said the quagga mussel was not present in the state’s water project channels and that basins could finally be recharged.

That same day, CB General Manager Hunt told the Whittier Daily News that the quagga problem was over saying, “they never found quaggas in the water, there is no reason to shut off the water off now. ”

Under the terms of the agreement which paid a monthly retainer, Hunt could have cancelled the Garcia contract prior to Oct. 6, saving CB $5,000.

The contract stated, “the District may immediately terminate this Agreement at any time for convenience and without cause by giving written notice to Consultant specifying the effective date of such termination. Upon termination for convenience, Consultant shall be compensated only for the Work which has been timely and adequately rendered to District up to the effective date of the termination. ”

 

 

Yet Hunt approved the $10,000 payment to Garcia.

The payment to Garcia was also approved by the CB Finance and Audit Committee.

The committee includes Garcia’s long time friend Bob Apodaca as Chair of the Committee, and Directors John Oskoui and Perdro Acietuno as members.

Today at their regular meeting, CB President Bob Apodaca, Vice President Pedro Aceituno, and Directors William Gedney, John Oskoui, Mark Garjeda and Leticia Vasquez voted 6-1 to approve the payment to Garcia, with Phil Hawkins the lone no vote. Director Art Chacon was absent due to illness but would also have voted no.

“The more things change, the more they remain the same, ” said Chacon after hearing the vote, “Directors handing out contracts to friends and getting away with it like the old days.”

A former high-level employee of CB told HMG-CN, “ “What I find  amazing is that Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia and Senator Ricardo Lara’s passage of legislation expanding Central Basin’s Board to include three new members consisting of so-called “water professionals” was supposed to prevent this type of sweetheart deals from occurring.”

“What this shows the water community is that votes are still available for backroom deals and trade and that now instead of just three Director’s wheeling and dealing with ratepayer funds, there’s now six pair of hands out.”

The former employee went on to say that CB could have used Metropolitan Water District personnel to help with the quagga issue.

“With regards to the quagga mussel, as members of Metropolitan Water, Central Basin has access to their vast expertise. A third of Central Basin’s staff are unnecessary given MWD’s superior capabilities in the area of legislative and water quality issues. Garcia and Lara should have reduced the size of Central Basin rather than increase it. Good luck trying to fix this problem now. I’d expect to see a lot more shady deals with the likes of Leon Garcia with Apodaca’s re-election coming up next year. Money don’t grow in trees but it certainly flows in water. ”

 

Central Basin asked for a correction to part of the article:

The article falsely states that the District’s Finance and Audit Committee as well as the Board voted to approve payment to Southwest Management Consultants. That assertion is incorrect and misleads readers. The Committee and Board approved the quarterly review of the contracts, not payment. The quarterly review of contracts is a standard procedure that fosters transparency. The District has made extensive efforts to create an open and responsive agency. We request that you make this correction.

 

 

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