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WRD Tried to Influence Key Elections in Signal Hill, Cerritos, Central Basin Water

Thursday September 26, 2013, 3:22 p.m.

(Lakewood) Documents obtained by Hews Media Group-Community News show that a political action committee formed in 2012 appeared to have been established for the exclusive purpose of influencing the outcome of local elections, including Directorships at the Central Basin Municipal Water District, as well as city council seats in both Signal Hill and Cerritos, with all donations coming from vendors who work or contract with the Lakewood based Water Replenishment District.

Calling itself “The Coalition for Clean Affordable Water,” the CCAW filed for committee status with the Secretary of State in early 2012.

According to 460 disclosure statements filed in Norwalk at the County Registrar Recorders Office, and obtained by HMG-CN, within a span of two months, the committee raised and spent approximately $40,000 supporting and opposing candidates in the June 5, 2012 Central Basin Municipal Water District election resulting in two of three challengers replacing long-time incumbents.

See partial 460 documents click here.

The CCAW also spent money on local city council elections in Signal Hill and Cerritos, supporting three candidates in Signal Hill as well as former Planning Commissioner Frank Yokoyama in Cerritos. One CCAW candidate won in Signal Hill, the remaining lost their respective elections.

Funding for the effort came exclusively from individuals and firms doing business with the WRD located in Lakewood including seven law firms and six lobbyist/consultants.

Convicted felon Rick Mayer, who managed James Roybal’s and Leticia Vasquez’ successful campaigns and who is currently listed on Roybal’s 460’s as still being owed $15,888, apparently donated an additional $13,000 to the CCAW through two firms that list his private residence as it’s address.

CBMWD had long been at odds with the WRD and had recently won a case against them over their lack of compliance with the provisions of Proposition 218 notification requirements.

CBMWD joined the cities of Downey, Cerritos and Signal Hill in challenging in court WRD’s method of imposing their annual replenishment assessment rate setting process.

The courts ruled against WRD; however no decision has been made yet as to potential monetary damages that could range from a few hundred thousand to over $80 million.

According to a source familiar with the case, “CBMWD filed their lawsuit representing all the cities and ‘pumpers’ in their jurisdiction and the potential for awarded damages could have bankrupted the WRD.”

At CBMWD’s August 26, 2013 meeting, on a 3-2 vote, with Directors Art Chacon and Phil Hawkins voting no, the lawsuit against WRD was unexpectedly dropped, potentially saving WRD millions in damages.

According to Director Art Chacon, who voted against dropping the case along with fellow Director Phil Hawkins, “nobody drops a case you’ve fought hard for and won.  I was certainly in favor of negotiating with WRD in good faith regarding a potential settlement, but somehow they already had the votes lined up.

According to records, funding raised for the CCAW went to defeat three incumbents on the CBMWD.

A series of nine companies were paid through the CCAW including such popular slates as Californians Vote Green, Our Voice Latino Guide, Budget Watchdogs and COPS Voter Guide.

Then challenger James Roybal was given $8,612.33 by the CCA having all nine ‘slate mailers’ sent on his behalf.  Roybal won his seat defeating former Montebello Mayor Ed Vasquez.

Roybal raised only $4,000 on his own, not including a $1,010 loan to himself, while his campaign managed to spend $29,278.

Further, Roybal’s 460 disclosure forms failed to report the $8,612.33 non-monetary contribution by the CCA, which is a violation of the state’s campaign finance laws.

Sources tell HMG-CN that involvement of the CCA in CBMWD 2012 election raises concerns that another rival water agency is actively playing politics, which is against the law for any public agency.

CCA’s 460’s reveal that all 19 donors responsible for funding the attack on CBMWD are linked to WRD.

The HMG-CN investigation discovered that seven WRD law firms donated $9,000 combined and six WRD consultants and lobbyists another $8,000.

Furthermore, two large donations totaling $13,000 were made by business entities associated with convicted felon Rick Mayer of Whittier.

The two businesses donating $13,000 were R&M Associates and Alert One, both listing Mayer’s home residence of 13619 Terrace Place in Whittier as their primary location.

A search of property records revealed that Mayer and his wife Mary Ellen Basulto purchased the property in Whittier in March 2007.

Mayer, 61, is a controversial political figure and former CBMWD Director. Mayer was a candidate for the South Gate City Council when he was found guilty in 2001 of lying about where he lived in order to qualify for the ballot. He was convicted on seven felony counts, including three of perjury and served eight months in prison.

Mayer was widely recognized as an ally of South Gate’s other convicted politician Albert Robles, who bilked the city out of millions during his tenure as an elected official in that city.

CBMWD Director Art Chacon said, “the CCAW got involved in Cerritos and Signal Hill, where one incumbent was defeated.  In CBMWD’s race they knocked off two incumbents last year.  Pico Rivera is also not paying a replenishment assessment to WRD, a result of their own 218 opposition, and I understand that a small water board member named Adrian Diaz with very close ties to Roybal and Rick Mayer is running there this November against two incumbents.  Let’s see where his money is going to come from.”



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