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City of Commerce Pulls Out of Lawsuit Against Central Basin and Board of Directors

 

 

BY BRIAN HEWS • May 24, 2020

Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community Newspaper has learned that the Commerce City Council voted to remove themselves as party to a lawsuit against Central Basin Municipal Water (CB) and its current board members Leticia Vasquez, Art Chacon, Martha Camacho-Rodriguez and Phil Hawkins.

Aleshire-Wynder, attorneys for the petitioners, are attempting to overturn the CB Board vote that appointed Vasquez as president and Chacon as vice-president, and hand serial sexual harasser Bob Apodaca and his two cronies, Joshuana “John” Oskoui and Dan Arrighi, the officer appointments.

Other parties to the lawsuit include the cities of Lakewood, Paramount, Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, and Whittier.

The city of Downey is also participating despite the fact that Oskoui is the Assistant City Manager of Downey, while also an appointed Director on the CB Board under Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s AB 1794 passed in 2016.

Some, but not all, of the water “purveyors” in CB’s service joined in the lawsuit including La Habra Heights County Water District, South Montebello Irrigation District, Bellflower-Somerset Mutual Water Company, Montebello Land and Water Company, Tract 349, Mutual Water Company, and Walnut Park Mutual Water, and Pico Water District.

The GM of Pico Water District, Mark Grejeda, was a former appointed CB Director and a vocal critic of Vasquez and company, while defending Oskoui and Apodaca’s actions.

The lawsuit centers around what constitutes a majority when a seat on a public agency’s board is vacant, as in the case with CB. Frank Heldman, another Garcia appointee under her bill, resigned in disgrace in 2019.

The crux of the lawsuit is thus: there are eight seats on the board, but one is vacant. Is a majority five (assuming eight seats) or four (assuming seven seats)?

When the CB Board reorganization meeting occurred, the group of Vasquez, Chacon, Hawkins, and Camacho-Rodriguez asserted a majority was four, and appointed Vasquez and Chacon as officers.

They were backed by current CB attorney Anthony Willoughy who cited a landmark 1987 California Appeals Court case Price vs. Tennant Community Services District to back their assertion a majority is four.

The court addressed a situation that exactly matches the CB question: whether the quorum is changed if there is a vacancy on the board.

The Appeals Court found that the law expressly mandates a board, which is absent members due to a vacancy, can transact business if a majority of the remaining board members vote.

Given the vacancy of Heldman, a majority, under the California Appeals Court ruling in Central Basin’s, case is four.

A source who attended the Commerce City Council closed meeting told HMG-LCCN, “the city never really wanted to be a part of the lawsuit because everyone thought it was a purely political maneuver by Apodaca, Oskoui and Arrighi, along with the purveyors, against Central Basin and the current officers. The three have refused to work with Vasquez and at least move Central Basin forward while the case in pending, they have other motives and the city does not want to be a part of that.”

In an earlier email, Willoughby did not mince words about the conflict of interest related to Oskoui and Arrighi suing CB and Vasquez, while ignoring other lawsuits.

“Each of you represent water purveyors (Oskoui in Downey and Arrighi with the San Gabriel Valley Water). Presently we have litigation involving the meter charge and actions brought against Central Basin by water purveyors. The City of Downey is a named party and the lead plaintiff in the Writ of Mandate brought against Central Basin.”

Willoughby continued, “Mr. Arrighi is the representative of the plaintiffs in the meter charge litigation. In spite of the aforementioned each of you have refused to calendar the litigation for the agenda and have impeded legitimate counsel from representing the agency that you serve. Your actions are in direct conflict and at best, a failure to exercise good business, and at worst, an outright dereliction of duty.”

“You are noticed to cease and desist in engaging in activity that raise a conflict of interest, to refrain from discussing litigation in which you have a conflict, and to stop impeding Central Basin from defending itself.”

“That was one of the major concerns, said the source from Commerce, “Oskoui and Arrighi are in Central Basin closed session meetings discussing litigation that they are a part of, and they don’t recuse and leave the meeting. They could be going back and talking to their lawyers about the meeting, who knows. These guys are walking conflicts of interest with a political agenda, that’s why the Commerce left the lawsuit.”

HMG was told that some of the other cities and purveyors might be dropping out of the lawsuit also, but could not confirm.

 

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