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DIRTY WATER: Central Basin Directors Vasquez, Roybal Owes Campaign Cash to Convicted Political Figures

Central Basin Water District Board Members Leticia Vasquez and James Roybal.

Central Basin Water District Board Members Leticia Vasquez and James Roybal.

By Brian Hews 
Recently elected Central Water District Board Directors Leticia Vasquez and James Roybal ran on a campaign of “cleaning up the corruption” at the besieged public agency that serves millions of residents throughout South East Los Angeles county.
They pounded their respective opponents, incumbents Rudy Montalvo and Ed Vasquez in campaign materials that painted the two as having cozy relationships with “cohorts and partners in crime.”
What Vasquez and Roybal didn’t tell voters, exposed last week in LCCN, is that the two people overseeing and directing their campaigns have convictions for political crimes in the past.
Former felon Ricardo “Rick” Mayer, and political consultant Angel Gonzalez, who donated huge sums of money, were the two key figures responsible for getting Vasquez and Roybal elected.
And both Roybal and Vasquez now owe the two a lot of money.
An examination by LCCN of the California Form 460 Form F, which documents Accrued Expenses and Unpaid Bills, show that both Vasquez and Roybal owe the two convicted figures more than $40,000.
Vasquez told state officials that she still owes Gonzalez at least $18,399 for campaign signs and mailing costs, more than eight months after being elected last June.
Roybal owes $22,878 to Mayer in expenses.
Los Cerritos Community Newspaper has been told by several sources that both Mayer and Gonzalez could be rewarded for their connections with Vasquez and Roybal by being granted consulting contracts that could bring in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.

Since taking office on January 7th, 2013, in less than one month, Roybal and Vasquez joined ranks with long-time Director Bob Apodaca and created a new “voting bloc majority” at Central Basin.

Within one week of being sworn into office, the three fired Chief Operating Officer Chuck Fuentes, along with Assistant to General Manager Ron Beilke and Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman. They also ordered all contracts to be reviewed.

The three also changed the Administrative Code and removed President Art Chacon from overseeing the Board just barely one week after he was seated for the position. Roybal is now serving as president of the five-member board.

The three also immediately removed CBMWD Director and Cerritos resident Phil Hawkins from his long held seat on the board of the Metropolitan Water District. Hawkins served as chair of the important Real Estate and Asset Management Special Committee.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe was angered about the recent decision to remove Hawkins from his key slot.
“I’m very upset to see Phil removed from his MWD seat. Phil has been a tireless advocate for the Southeast area on water issues and his tenure means a great deal on such a large Board as the MWD. His experience as Chair of the Real Estate and Asset Management Committee will be missed,” Knabe said.
“When reached by phone, Hawkins was equally as angry, “They removed me for no reason. It’s all about egos. We were doing a good job there; we were actually making money. Roybal was going to take my seat, but his school commitments prevented that, so now Leticia will be taking the seat, and she has zero experience.”
Roybal as president is now in a powerful position, responsible for forming committee, items that will be allowed on the agenda, and what contracts are vetted and reviewed before they come to a vote.

Vasquez is no stranger to political controversy. South Gate Councilman Henry Gonzalez, who is considered to be one of the most respected elected officials in Southeast Los Angeles County told LCCN in an interview on Monday that Vasquez is as “dirty as they come.”

“She was groomed by convicted felon and ex-Lynwood Mayor Paul Richards, she knows how to play dirty, and doesn’t care about rules. Leticia does what she wants,” the South Gate councilman said.

In 2005, former longtime Mayor Paul Richards was convicted of steering $500,000 worth of city contracts to a front corporation he secretly owned and was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison.

Gonzalez understands just how rough politics can be. In 1999, then at age 64, he was shot in the head by an assailant after he returned home from a South Gate City Council meeting.

“Listen, I understand politics around here better than anyone. Everyone needs to pay attention on what’s going on over at the Central Basin Water District, especially in light of what has taken place just this past month alone,” said Gonzalez.

Vasquez has also doled out campaign cash to both Gonzalez and Mayer in the past.

Gonzalez was paid $4,000, and Mayer’s firm R&M Associates garnered an additional $2,000 in past campaigns. Gonzalez owns Pyramid Printing in Los Angeles and is a well known figure in Southeast politics and recall campaigns and has also done work for former Artesia Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, as well as several local city councilmembers.

Next Week: Los Cerritos Community Newspaper will have exclusive interviews with both Vasquez and Roybal.

  • Nancy Estrella says:

    This is absolutely disgusting! Great job Brian & Randy and the whole LCCN staff. Isn’t it amazing how a paper like the Whittier Daily News hasn’t even mentioned this campaign financing scandal? What about the Downey Patriot of the Wave that covers the Southeast? I’m so sick of newspapers that exclusively strive to deliver feel good fluff that doesn’t inform people and keeps them in the dark. I know it’s a big job to uncover this information, but can you imagine had the voters knew about Roybal and Vasquez before they were elected? I want to see them out and will support any efforts to accomplish that. Count me in!

  • Bill Raabe says:

    Unless Vasquez and Roybal are part of one person’s name, your headline should say “owe”, not “öwes”.

  • Jay Gray says:

    We’ve gone form worse to even worse. This is absolutely sickening. Where are all the city council members who are in cities served by the CBMWD? They need to be calling each of those CBMWD members to task. The BS over there has gone on long enough. The problem is too many of these officials are interconnected and don’t want to rock the boat and jeopardize their own good time on the tax payer’s dime.

    Open letter to Phil Hawkins: You need to get off your butt and insist in public forums (i.e. city councils meetings)that the city councils in each of your represented 7-cities get involved. You’ve milked the system long enough. It’s time, Mr. Hawkins, you become part of the solution instead of remaining as part of the problem. Start earning you keep!!

    • Scott Collins says:

      I am sorry, but I think your comments directed towards Phil Hawkins are misdirected. I understand that you ran against Phil and lost, but being disrespectful does not help the situation. We all agree that there are “issues” with the Central Basin and I am sure that this type of reporting will help to bring light to the “issues.”

      • Jay Gray says:

        The way I see it, Hawkins has been over there for 12-years. During his tenure CBMWD came under state scrutiny.

        Was it all his fault? I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that someone with his political background should have been more proactive, more vocal.

        He still has that opportunity, as our representative, to do so. It’s up to him to fix this situation and not the news media.

        Nearly 60% of voters may have voted for another candidate, but he won and as a rate payer I expect to him to fight for us!

        I will also point out that during the campaign Hawkins publicly insisted all was find with the CBMWD. That wasn’t and still isn’t true.

        Moreover, I have to differ with you, I don’t believe the disrespect is coming from this or any other rate payer asking an elected representative to do their job.

        • Scott Collins says:

          Understood Jay. I guess there are a lot of us who are fed up with the water district when it comes to their lavish spending (for spouses also at one point), sexual tryst by Mr. Apodaca, and now this power play. It seems that they have become disconnected from their constituents and more connected to those who they owe. It disgusts me to think that Calderon makes $140,000 a year from the district and for what? It is just another smear for Southeast LA County. Hopefully things will change for the better. While the water is clear the politics at the Central Basin Water District are not.

  • Nancy Estrella says:

    I agree with both Scott and Jay. Phil is not a bad guy, but he was asleep at the wheel at Central. But I do believe his intentions are good and I think he realizes he’s got an important second chance. I think had Jay won it would have been interesting, but ultimately the corrupt voting block of Roybal, Vasquez and Apodaca is just too treacherous! I would encourage Scott to consider running against Apodaca next year! Apodaca’s always bragging about how close he is to Norwalk’s representatives, but I think he’s dreaming. We need Apodaca OUT!

  • Mike Tyson says:

    Roybal, Vasquez and Sicko Apodaca are doling out the contracts again. After that big show they made of canceling all District contracts (as reformers nevertheless), the roll outs have begun and all the usual & worthless suspects are getting their contracts renewed. These three blind mice think their little show would fool us, but the only reason they canceled them in the first place was as an excuse to give their “new” friends replacement deals. You’ve got to pity those fools that didn’t donate when they had a chance. I predict that in 2013 a legislative move to eliminate this pathetic dump will occur and I predict that Assemblyman Ian Calderon will lead the charge if Uncle Tom doesn’t get his contract renewed soon. I understand Uncle Tom greased some serious palms and will extract serious revenge on Jimbo and his circus freak partner Leticia if they don’t deliver. That guys scary too!

  • William says:

    Did you know that Vasquez was recalled with three other Councilmen in the City of Lynwood?