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BREAKING: D.A. Reviewing Incompatible Office Charges Against Downey Assistant City Manager John Oskoui

Central Basin Director and Downey Assistant Manager Jahanshah “John” Oskoui.

 

BY BRIAN HEWS • August 21, 2020

Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News has exclusively learned that Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office of Integrity is reviewing the incompatible office charges leveled against Central Basin Director and Downey Assistant Manager Jahanshah “John” Oskoui as outlined in a letter sent by former CB attorney Anthony Willoughby.

The D.A. stated in part, “we are in receipt of your letter and will review the matters you raised.

 

 

HMG-CN obtained the Willoughby letter late June, which was addressed to Los Angeles County District Attorney Alan Yochelson, head of the Public Integrity Office.

Willoughby stated in his letter, “Mr. John Oskoui holds a position as Assistant City Manager of the City of Downey and as a board member of Central Basin Water,  which also serves the City of Downey. Holding both offices not only creates the possibility of multiple clashes of duties and loyalties but has already caused an actual a significant clash of duties and loyalties.”

Willoughby was referring to the meter charge debacle that cost CB $635,000, and will cost more because of pending litigation.

“As a board member of  Central Basin, Oskoui voted to approve a meter increase in the city of Downey. Subsequently, Oskoui turned around and sued Central Basin as the Assistant City Manager of Downey for the same increased meter regulations, as such, it is clear that Oskoui has abused both offices in creating litigation costs for both government entities”

 

Read: Lawsuit That Oskoui’s Employer Filed Against Central Basin

 

Willoughby goes on to write about the many opines the California Attorney General has published related to incompatible offices, including a quo warranto case against Blanca Rubio.

“Offices are incompatible if one of the offices has a supervisory, auditory, or removal power over the other or if there would be any significant clash of duties or loyalties in the exercise of official duties.”

Rubio was serving as a director of  the Valley County Water District and as a trustee of the Baldwin Park Unified School District within the same water district.

The AG’s opine granting quo warranto and leave to sue against Rubio sounded very similar to Oskoui’s position.

“Because her duties to both boards would have divided loyalties in acting in the best interests of the water seller – the water district – and the water purchaser – BPUSD – the clash of loyalties would stem from multiple issues including the appropriate allocation of costs for water.”

Oskoui has been a lightning rod of controversy ever since he was appointed to the Central Basin Water District Board under Assemblywoman Christina Garcia’s 2016 AB 1794, which itself was controversial.

The bill allowed for three unelected appointees, bringing the total up to eight seats. The bill had many alleging an attempt at sabotaging the board and an eventual privatization; the appointees work for water companies that compete with Central Basin and we’re not required to live in the district; they also sold some agency’s assets without board approval.

 

Read: Additional Conflicts of Interest for Oskoui

 

The appointments have caused numerous problems, one appointee, Frank Heldman, has since resigned under a cloud of controversy, including trying to secure business for his own company – Liberty Water –  while Central Basin took a backseat.

Another, Dan Arrighi, recently resigned; the resignation came just one hour after HMG published the  Oskoui incompatible office letter by Willoughby.

 

Read: Dan Arrighi Resigns After HMG Article

 

Not to be outdone, Oskoui who has “30 years of public agency experience” was part of the plan Willoughby referred to in his letter, leading a successful effort to secure a meter charge that would have brought in over $600,000 to the cash strapped public agency.

But then Oskoui and his employer, the city of Downey, turned around and sued Central Basin for implementing the meter charge, which will cost both municipalities thousands in legal fees while robbing Central Basin’s general fund of needed cash.

HMG sent several emails to Oskoui, his boss, Downey City Manager Gilbert Livas, and the Downey City Council for comment, asking if Oskoui was present when the litigation against Central Basin was approved, with no response.

HMG also asked why Downey’s local paper and its editor, Eric Pierce, is not investigating the moves by Oskoui.

Neither the publisher, Jennifer DeKay, nor Pierce have responded to emails.

Their silence could stem from Pierce’s current run for a Downey City Council seat; he does not want to  risk losing endorsements and endangering his candidacy, especially the endorsement of former Mayor Mario Guerra; DeKay is rumored to want to sell the paper to Guerra.

The review presents an onerous situation for Oskoui. Government Code §1099(b) states that when two public offices are incompatible, a public officer shall be deemed to have forfeited the first office upon acceding to the second.

That means Oskoui would have to quit his job at the city of Downey, where he earns over $322,000 according to Transparent California.

 

 

Willoughby finished, “We demand that Mr. Oskoui resign from his position as the Assistant City Manager of the city of Downey, or in the alternative have criminal charges brought against Mr. Oskoui for simultaneously holding two public offices that are incompatible.”

Emails into Oskoui, Livas, and the Downey City Council went unreturned.

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