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Questionable Law Firm Billed Sativa Water District Over $67,000 in Six Months

 

BY BRIAN HEWS

Friday June 22, 2018 2:20 p.m.

In January 2015, a Hews Media Group-Community News investigation revealed that the boutique law firm of Tafoya and Garcia had questionably billed Central Basin Municipal Water District over $127,000 in fees related to former GM Tony Perez’ sham investigation.

Tafoya invoiced $91,000 and their private investigators charged $36,000. Astonishingly, all invoices and charges were generated in only 34 days.

 

Law Firm Submits Questionable Billing in Central Basin Water Investigation of Former GM Tony Perez

 

The HMG-CN investigation found that some of the Tafoya invoices contained the name Aisha Adama (Adama).

Calls into Tafoya were met with “there is no Ms. Adama that works here.” Several sources at CB told HMG-CN that they had never heard of Adama.

Through research, HMG-CN found Aisha Adam, a licensed attorney in Whittier.

When contacted, Ms. Adam confirmed she had worked for Tafoya. Ms. Adam would not, however, confirm she had done any work on the Perez case.

Massive Billings

The records showed that Garcia billed $10,785 in October 2014, while Adama totaled $9,240.

Garcia racked up $21,315 in fees and Adama totaled $13,510 in November, for only eight days of work.

Included in the billings was $12,635 for 36 hours of work on Saturday Nov.1 and Sunday Nov. 2.

Adama worked 21.5 hours Nov. 1 and 2, charging $7,525 in fees.

At the time, former L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe questioned the investigation, insinuating a pay-to-play scenario. Knabe told HMG-CN, “it’s the same old stuff, filling the pockets of friends, if their case was as strong as they said, they wouldn’t need over $100,000 in legal fees.”

Questionable Sativa Water Billings

During the same time period – Oct. 2014 – that Tafoya racked up $10,785 in billings to CB, Tafoya was paid $6,335 by the embattled Sativa Water, the tiny company based out of Compton that has been blasted for pumping brown water.

The billings were obtained by a public records request submitted by HMG-CN.

Tafoya would eventually bill over $67,000 to Sativa, an under the radar water agency that has only 1,600 customers and generates barely over $1 million in total revenue.

Sativa has been under fire before, for many years the district operated without a budget or an auditor, and it could not afford simple infrastructure repairs such as installing water meters. Just today, the GM was placed on leave for placing advertising on the internet recruiting fake supporters to attend meetings.

Yet Sativa was paying massive amounts, in relation to its total revenue, to Tafoya for legal fees.

Records show that the Sativa Board replaced the agency’s long-time attorney Anthony Willoughby, installing Tafoya in July 2014.

In just a few months, the GM gave notice that he wanted to “pursue other opportunities.”

Shortly thereafter, Tafoya began its substantial billings.

In March 2015, three checks were sent on the same day to Tafoya; one for $4,320, another for $4,200, and another for $2,100, for a total of $10,620.

In April 2015, another check was sent for $7,773.

No checks were sent in May 2015, but the next month Tafoya raked in two large checks, once again cut on the same day, one for $8,820, and the other for $9,280, for a total of $18,100.

In August 2015 Sativa sent Tafoya $9,500; in September two checks on the same day, one for $7,040 and the other for $7,840, for a total of $14,880.

No billings existed after September 2015, according to Sativa officials.

In just 6 short months, Tafoya generated over $67,000 in fees, a massive amount given the revenues of the agency.

A local water agency official, who did not want to be identified, told HMG-CN, “this goes on all the time, just like Knabe said, ‘giving money to friends,’ that friend’s money eventually ends up in accounts financing re-election campaigns.”

 

 

 

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