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Judge’s Ruling in Central Basin Board Lawsuit Called Into Question, One Side Will Appeal

 

After ruling, Oskoui and Apodaca once again fail to attend crucial board meeting.

BY BRIAN HEWS • July 26, 2020

A Superior Court judge has joined the fray at Central Basin (CB) by making the strangest of rulings in a lawsuit that will have wide-ranging ramifications on the Commerce-based agency.

The lawsuit was filed when four CB board members appointed Leticia Vasquez as President and Art Chacon as VP back in January of this year.

Led by Directors John Oskoui and Bob Apodaca, with attorneys from Aleshire and Wynder, a group sued attempting to invalidate the appointment by arguing that four votes was not a majority because there are eight seats on the board.

Current California laws prevent HMG from requesting documents from Aleshire showing who is paying the Irvine-based firm.

At the same time, Oskoui and Apodaca stopped all business from being conducted at the agency handing Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia her shot at drafting a bill to put Central Basin into receivership.

Garcia’s receivership mission was joined by Assembly Speaker Rendon’s General Counsel Alf Brandt, who was shown to have a conflict of interest when HMG revealed that his brother, Norris Brandt, had worked for Central Basin for three years.

Alf Brandt also assisted Garcia in her 2016 bill that added three appointees to Central Basin’s Board, two of which have resigned, with Oskoui remaining and causing all the financial problems.

 

Alf Brandt with Asm. Garcia. Garcia wrote, “I just wanted to take a moment and thank Alf Brandt from Speaker Rendon’s office for working with me and my office on AB 1794.” That bill changed Central Basin’s Board and caused the current problems.

 

 

To complete the trifecta, Alf Brandt and former disgraced GM Kevin Hunt have been, as Hunt said in a text, “good friends for years.”

The other directors, VP Art Chacon, Phil Hawkins, and Martha Camacho-Rodriguez argued that the majority was four and Vasquez’ appointment was legitimate citing Frank Heldman’s resignation – under a cloud of controversy – that left only six directors on the board.

And there is clear case precedent for their argument.

In the landmark 1987 California Appeals Court case Price vs. Tennant Community Services District 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.

Yet the judge inexplicably ruled, seemingly using Price vs. Tennant as both a precedent and an argument, that Vasquez is President of the CB Board, while at the same time ruling that a majority is five seats.

The ruling invalidates a letter Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey sent in March of this year ordering CB and President Vasquez to cure and correct the appointment.

At the time, CB Attorney Anthony Willoughby slammed Lacey for “not knowing the facts.”

“First and foremost you [Lacey] must be aware of the facts of the situation prior to issuing any letter or claims opinion on actions,” wrote Willoughby.

Willoughby rightfully asserted that Lacey made no effort to fully investigate the facts of the situation, nor did she contact the elected officials involved in the issue including President Vasquez, VP Chacon, and Directors Hawkins and Camacho-Rodriguez.

Willoughby indicated he will appeal the ruling and that “it should be heard very quickly.”

Meanwhile, Apodaca and Oskoui have already shown that they would rather see the agency dissolved than follow the judges ruling; the two did not show up for a special meeting this past Friday to discuss a new GM, general counsel, and to discuss and pass the budget.

Another board meeting is scheduled for tomorrow July 27 highlighted by a 248-page agenda of business items; business items Oskoui, Apodaca, and Finance Director Andrew Hamilton have blocked for nearly four months.

“The optics will be terrible if the three attempt to block the meeting, not attending or by Hamilton cutting off the Zoom meeting,” said Director Phil Hawkins, “but they did it Friday so who knows.”

“We are ready to go,” said VP Chacon, “let’s hope Oskoui and Apodaca are as ready as we are to move this agency forward too.”

 

 

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