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Asm. Cristina Garcia’s ‘Dumb Bill,’ Along With Actions of the General Manager, Prove Costly to Central Basin Water’s Bottom Line and Employees

Central Basin GM Kevin Hunt

BY BRIAN HEWS

The hefty attorney’s fees at Central Basin Municipal Water District (CB), which have hit over $53,000 per month during the past six months, have finally come home to roost at the Commerce-based water agency.

The origin of the fees lies squarely on the shoulders of General Manager Kevin Hunt, who had a hand in two current lawsuits, and a hand in another that is pending.

The city of Huntington Park is suing CB alleging that Hunt fixed the appointment process of CB Vice-President John Oskoui, illegally disqualifying Huntington Park resident Dr. Mike Gomez while appointing Oskoui.

The appointment process was put in place after Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s (D-Bell Gardens) ill-conceived AB 1794 passed, allowing Hunt to appoint three (non-elected) Directors to the CB Board, Directors who have no direct accountability to the ratepayers and only to their own interests.

And Hunt has used the bill to pack the board with friendly votes ever since.

The second lawsuit involves former CB employee Ron Bielke, who is suing CB for the unlawful release of his personal health records to the Los Angeles Times.

The records were leaked to reporter Adam Elmharek, who eventually wrote a one-sided article somehow accusing Bielke of staging his fall and injury for financial gain, an injury where he nearly broke his neck and endured several major surgeries.

Because of these lawsuits, CB was forced to consider severe budget cuts and revenue enhancements which culminated in actions taken at yesterday’s CB Board meeting.

The cuts involved laying off as many as five employees, though none were named during the meeting.

 

 

Longtime CB Director Art Chacon, who called into the board meeting while on vacation, was incensed at the layoffs.

Chacon and Director Phil Hawkins have been vocal opponents of CB’s current law firm, Nossaman, and Hunt’s litigious exploits, lodging several no votes when Hunt moved to increase Nossaman’s $25,000 budget every month.

Chacon immediately motioned to cut Hunt’s pay by half, instead of cutting employees, but Hunt’s board packing, a result of Asm. Garcia’s AB 1794, prevented that action.

Voting yes to cut Hunt’s pay was Directors Chacon, Hawkins, Leticia Vasquez, and Martha Camacho-Rodriguez.

Voting no were all Hunt appointees: Vice-President Oskoui and Directors Dan Arrighi, and Frank Heldman.

 

ALL APPOINTED BY HUNT: from (l-r) CB Directors Frank Heldman, Dan Arrighi, and VP John Oskoui

 

The final vote was Hunt ally and Board President Bob Apodaca, who, among several other costly actions over the past ten years, hired disgraced former GM Art Aguilar, contracted with Ron and Tom Calderon, and was involved in a sexual harassment claim that cost CB over $670,000.

Chacon tried once again to save CB employees by motioning for a per-meter charge of $4.68. The per-meter charge has been a topic of discussion for months, but the board had yet to settle on a final amount.

But the block of President Apodaca, Oskoui, Arrighi, and Heldman voted the rate increase down, instead voting for a $2 charge, sealing the fate of the CB employees while saving Hunt from a cut in pay.

Director Hawkins voted yes for the $2 charge but was able to secure another board vote in three months for a possible  increase.

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