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FOIA: Documents Show Two Central Basin Directors Attempting Extortion and Harassing Employees

 

 

 

September 21, 2021

BY BRIAN HEWS • [email protected]

 

Leticia Vasquez-Wilson was elected to the Central Basin Board (CB) in 2012, taking her seat in January 2013. Since then, she has committed several questionable acts; some call them gross malfeasance, her latest act shooting a video calling the city of Downey’s water undrinkable, a move that triggered a lawsuit against the Commerce-based agency.

Since being elected in 2018, Martha Camacho-Rodriguez, the former Cerritos College Board member, has glommed onto Vasquez and become her ally. The two are now in a minority position on the CB Board, and, as a result, have become increasingly more abusive to staff and fellow directors.

But no one knew the level of abuse the two have been hurling on staff; that is until now.

Hews Media Group-Cerritos News has obtained, via a public records request, disturbing emails between long-time CB staff,  Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez, documenting a shocking pattern of harassment so harsh that employees feared for their safety and endured constant threats and intimidation.

In addition, the threats and intimidation have carried over to some CB staff homes; pictures obtained from sources by HMG-CN show by Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez associates Rodolfo Cortes Barragan and Downey’s Juan Joey Martinez harassing CB employees at their residences.

Not satisfied with intimidating staff, Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez attempted to intimidate CB GM Alex Rojas into paying bogus invoices totaling $40,000.

According to sources, the two used Trump-like tactics, transporting their associates to CB, who would verbally harass and slander other directors and staff in the building and harass them during public comment at zoom meetings a la the Saul Alinsky playbook; using leaked privileged information and falsifying documents.

Harassing a pregnant woman

The documents show that in 2020, during the pressures of a pandemic, the four harassed long-time Executive Board Secretary Cecilia Pulido at board meetings, attempting to influence her decisions in placing items Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez wanted on the board meeting agenda.

The attacks got so bad that Pulido feared for her safety, punctuated by Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez sending Cortes and Martinez to harass Pulido at her house.

Pulido was pregnant at the time.

According to the FOIA documents, several harassment incidents occurred involving Martinez and Cortes, enabled by Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez.

In a March 12, 2020 email from Pulido to Human Resources, Pulido documented the cancellation of the Admin. and Finance Committee due to lack of quorum. 

 

Pulido memo documenting several harassment incidents.

 

As Pulido went downstairs to post the cancellation notice, she was verbally harassed by Cortes and Martinez; Pulido turned around and headed upstairs. 

According to CB policy, the public is not allowed upstairs, but Vasquez ordered Cortes and Martinez to follow Pulido; Pulido “screamed” for security, and the two were taken downstairs by the CB guard.

Pulido finished the email, “I fear for my safety. I fear for my health. HR is aware of my health condition and this is beyond unfair that this woman (Vasquez) continues to get away with so much.”

“She is creating a horrible working environment for everyone, it is TOXIC.”

Following Vasquez-Wilson’s cue, Camacho-Rodriguez, who claims to be a social justice and women’s rights advocate stating on her website, “Martha is an educator with Social Eco Education, a grassroots team of parents, students, and community members, who advocate for educational and environmental justice in South East Los Angeles,” also intimidated and harassed Pulido. 

Pulido stated that Camacho-Rodriguez was constantly “sarcastic, condescending, and disrespectful” accusing Pulido of never doing her job while using members of the public to harass her.

“She enables harassment, at one meeting she drove Martinez here to verbally harass me.”

In another disturbing email between Camacho-Rodriguez and Maria Estrada – who ran for the 63rd Assembly District – Estrada requested reams of public records, of which Pulido is in charge of gathering.

In her response email to Estrada, Camacho-Rodriguez was thrilled that Estrada asked for so many documents, a process that cost the agency thousands.

Camacho-Rodriguez wrote, “Thank you! Awesome, I can’t wait to see if that [sic] heffer [Pulido] does her job.”  

Pulido was included in the email.

 

Email showing Camacho-Rodriguez, calling Pulido (and misspelling) heifer.

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But harassing Pulido at work wasn’t enough for Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez, sending the two “men,” Cortes and Martinez, to harass a pregnant Pulido at her house.

Pictures obtained by HMG-CN allegedly show the two stalking Pulido’s house, trespassing in an attempt to knock on the door and intimidate Pulido.

 

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Pictures allegedly showing Rodolfo Cortes Barragan and Downey’s Juan Joey Martinez harassing employees at CB staff residences.

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Just weeks later, Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez attempted to use bully tactics to extort over $40,000 from the agency.

The scheme started when the two handed $40,000 in invoices to CB GM Alex Rojas and demanded payment to two “consultants,” Dallas Fowler and former California Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez. 

The two claimed they worked on defeating SB 625, the bill authored by Asm. Cristina Garcia (D-Bell) to throw the now highly solvent agency into receivership, but no one involved in lobbying for SB 625 had heard of Fowler or claimed to work with Bermudez.

 

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Consultant With Questionable Contract Demands Payment, Threatens Central Basin With Lawsuit

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 Rojas later rejected the invoices, with Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez, along with Cortes and Martinez, subjecting Rojas to private and public harassment “until he paid the invoices.” 

When he refused, they showed up at the Sept. 28, 2020 meeting and were so disruptive, other directors requested they reconvene on Sept. 29 to finish the agenda.

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After the meeting, Rojas, on the record, told HMG-CN he received a phone call from Bermudez who said, “this [the harassment] will all go away if you pay the invoices and make sure Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez get their money.” Rojas ended the call refusing to comply; the invoices were never paid.

Since then, the two directors and their collection of southeast Los Angeles bullies have continued to harass the board and staff of the District.

According to the District, there are several ongoing investigations involving Vasquez-Wilson and Camacho-Rodriguez. 

In addition, several former employees have filed claims, the stolen files are being reviewed, and the fraudulent invoices are under investigation.

CB is also contemplating possible legal action against Cortes and Martinez, Martinez has his own problems, he was the cameraman when Vasquez-Wilson stated Downey’s water was undrinkable.

In an email, CB President Art Chacon told HMG-CN, “It is disappointing to see such unprofessional behavior at our meetings from people who waste our meeting time attacking the board, the staff and our customers. Despite the attacks from this group, who are only trying to embarrass or financially harm the District, the majority of the board will continue to move forward in a positive manner. We are working with our purveyors to keep the cost of imported water low, expand our recycled water services and collaborate with other water agencies in our area to provide high-quality water to the communities we serve.”

 

Emails Are Troubling Sign for Two Central Basin Water Directors

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