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DIRTY WATER: Central Basin Directors Obstruct Lawsuit Against Pacifica Services

Wednesday January 15, 2014, 4:19 p.m.

By Brian Hews 

(Commerce)~In August 2013, Hews Media Group – Community News obtained exclusive documents that detailed an orchestrated collaboration between former Central Basin Municipal Water District GM Art Aguilar, former Interim GM Dave Hill, and Ernie Camacho, CEO of Pacifica Services, that showed large contracts being altered that were never approved by the Directors at CBMWD.

HMG-CN also obtained email exchanges between Hill, Camacho, his son Michael Camacho, and Pacifica Vice President Mike Sission dating back several years that outlined how Pacifica leveraged its political clout using Aguilar as a pawn in the agency outside of the public glare.

Pacifica Services and the CBMWD ended up suing each other in Los Angeles County Superior Court on allegations ranging from contract fraud to negligence.

Shortly after the initial lawsuits were filed, amid mounting evidence of wrongdoing, CBMWD amended its lawsuit against Pacifica and added Aguilar as part of the complaint.

The documents obtained and published by HMG-CN outlined how Camacho and Aguilar interfaced via company emails and weekly golf outings, displaying how the “pay to play” scheme between Aguilar, the agency, and Pacifica Services was conducted.

Now, concerns are being raised by two long-time Central Basin Board Members that three of their Board colleagues, along with Aguilar, are purposely attempting to sink their own District’s case against the politically powerful Pacifica Services.

For the second time in a span of less than three weeks at a Special Board meeting attended only by President James Roybal, Director Robert “Bob” Apodaca, and Director Leticia Vasquez, the three inexplicably fired its legal counsel, Grant Burton, who has been successfully litigating the District’s case against Pacifica.

Director Phil Hawkins, who represents the Cerritos area, stated that the “Roybal Three” have “no logical reason” to fire Burton and his firm Cohen & Burge LLP.

“Grant retired recently after more than 20 years with Metropolitan Water where he served as their in-house litigator. He has shown to be successful in proving CBMWD’s case to the court.  Grant is the best of the best and he was winning our case as evidenced by the court rejecting Pacifica’s request to throw the case out on December 30th. This shows we have a great case against Pacifica, the firing makes no sense at all, unless you look at the contributions,” Hawkins told HMG-CN in a recent interview.

HMG-CN previously reported contributions affiliated with Pacifica Services, and it’s politically influential President Ernie Camacho, to Roybal, Vasquez, and Apodaca.

Campaign reports filed with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office in Norwalk and the California Secretary of State in Sacramento reveal that a combined $45,797 has been contributed by known Pacifica sources, which include Ernie Camacho, his brother Andy Camacho, via his restaurant El Paseo Inn, MLJ Properties, owned by Ernie’s children, and Pacifica itself.

Over the years, Apodaca has received $34,000 including $10,000 in “forgiven loans”, Vasquez $6,797 and Roybal $5,000.

In addition, during Apodaca’s November 2006 reelection, he received $20,000 in contributions from Pacifica.  Apodaca has also acknowledged publicly, amid conflict of interest claims, that his longtime live-in girlfriend Caroline Medrano is a cousin of Ernie and Andy Camacho.

Roybal also reported $6,617 in un-itemized contributions, where he does not identify the source of the funding.  Those donations are currently under official investigation by the California Political Practices Commission, who is charged with enforcement on political misdeeds in the Golden State.

Adding to concerns within the water community, both Roybal and Vasquez accepted their substantial donations from Pacifica sources well after their June 5, 2012 election dates.

In an exclusive HMG interview, Hawkins and Director Art Chacon stated that they felt that the time had come for the public to be made aware of what they describe as a possible “growing criminal conspiracy” orchestrated by Roybal, Apodaca, and Vasquez.

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to see that the ongoing actions of Board President Roybal, Vice President Apodaca, and Director Vasquez make it clear that they are working against the best interests of their own agency in favor their largest financial campaign contributor, Pacifica,” Chacon said.

When asked to comment about the firing of Burton, Director Vazquez told HMG-CN in a written statement, “our general manager has communicated to me he believes Pacifica committed fraud and Grant Burton has refused to articulate the fraud. He originally filed a lawsuit claiming fraud then changed it; also Burton was recently fined by the court.”

Sources tell HMG-CN that the fraud charges stemmed from Aguilar altering the Pacifica contracts, which would not be included in the Pacifica case.

In response Burton said, “Director Vasquez’s comments are unfortunate and uninformed.  The so-called ‘fine’ was in reality a routine mild discovery sanction when we opposed a motion to compel the early deposition of our expert witness.  The other side made the motion claiming he was a percipient witness.  Although the judge agreed with us that he is an expert, he nonetheless decided to allow the deposition and therefore granted the small sanction, which is routine for discovery motions.”

Burton also told HMG-CN, “as for everything else in Director Vasquez’s comments those were matters both discussed in closed session and/or privileged attorney-client communications and I will not comment.”

Chacon and Hawkins also see an active and well-coordinated “conspiracy” stretching back to Aguilar who retired last October.  In December, Aguilar was deposed on behalf of Pacifica and said the lawsuit against Pacifica was Hawkins and Chacon’s fault for allegedly demanding larger campaign donations from Pacifica.

Campaign filings show that Chacon received $3,000 and Hawkins’ $1,500 over a combined 20 year time span as Board Members from Pacifica Services and affiliated employees.

According to Chacon, his contributions from Pacifica were not solicited.  “They were obviously insignificant compared to the nearly $46,000 the “Roybal Three” received. Aguilar failed to mention that in his deposition. It seems obvious that the sky was the limit if you were willing to be bought. Pacifica has proven that they’ll pay whatever necessary if you give in to them, so I’m pretty sure they would have given more had I asked.”

“Aguilar’s deposition comparing $4,500 that Art and I received while failing to mention the $46,000 Apodaca, Roybal, and Vasquez squeezed from Pacifica was a joke,” stated Hawkins. “He was obviously coached by his attorney.”

The attorney representing Aguilar is Steven J. Elie, who is an elected Board Member on the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, representing Chino and Chino Hills. One of Elie’s Board colleagues is Michael Camacho, son of Ernie Camacho.  Both Elie and Michael Camacho are considered to be staunch political friends and close allies.

HMG-CN called Elie for comment; the phone calls were not returned.

Hawkins also noted that internal investigations at the District have raised serious concerns about Aguilar’s involvement in illegally amending official documents related to Pacifica’s contract.

“That would be a pretty good excuse for Aguilar to attempt to divert attention away from the $5 Million paid to Pacifica by fabricating lies about Art and I,” Hawkins said.

Central Basin filed its lawsuit against Pacifica on July 25, 2013 seeking reimbursement of $539,000, stating it mistakenly paid above Board established spending limits.

Pacifica filed their counter lawsuit shortly thereafter demanding payments of nearly $300,000 they claimed it was owed.  Sources say Pacifica has been unable to substantiate those charges with detailed invoices.

According to Director Chacon, Board President Roybal requested mediation in October 2013 that was attended by attorneys, President Roybal and himself.  No deal was reached.

Previous HMG-CN investigations confirmed that Pacifica billed over $5 million to the District bypassing the competitive bidding process.

Their lone contract was won on a competitive bid back in 2007 for fee not to exceed $600,000.

According to a former high-level employee at CBMWD who was terminated as a result of the District’s attempt to investigate Pacifica’s questionable billings by telling the newspaper: “Pacifica and its President Ernie Camacho control the “Roybal Three” and until I see those three fight to protect the District’s best interest, I’ll continue to believe that. By taking one look at Roybal and Vasquez’ campaign statements it is plain to see they won their seats on I.O.U.’s, they won with almost no money, and now they have to pay the piper.”

HMG-CN sources have acknowledged Pacifica, along with other companies, are under scrutiny by the FBI looking into past business practices at CBMWD and that one of those investigations surrounds the now well known $2.7 Million “Slush Fund.”

Pacifica was a principal player in CBMWD’s ill-advised Groundwater Management Plan, spear-headed by Aguilar, and sources claim Pacifica reaped over $750,000 in fees.

Copyright. Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper. All Rights Reserved.  Republishing Granted with proper attribution.


  • Idea Man says:

    Wow! Wow! and Wow! This is real reporting. I cannot believe what Roybal, Apodaca and Vasquez are capable of. They are three of the most corrupt people ever elected to water boad positions. Woudn’t almost $46,000 in donations constitute a conflict for those three? That is an insane donation for a water race.

    Again and AGAIN, where’s the District Attorney, the Attorney General or the FBI? These three do anything they want knowing that they’re not being held accountable. How long can this continue? Five million paid to Pacifca who in turn provide legal counsel for the former General Manager is ridiculous. Isn’t Roybal an alcoholic?

  • Leticia Vasquez says:

    Mr. Hews,

    As always I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the stories in LCCN. First, this particular lawsuit is the result of actions taken before I was sworn in to serve as a board member at Central Basin. Upon the hiring of the current General Manager Tony Perez he indicated the Central Basin no longer needed Pacifica Services. After terminating the contact and demand for payment trickled in Tony Perez communicated to the Board that he suspected fraud. He recommended Central Basin pursue litigation against Pacific and I supported his recommendation. As a Director I rely on the advise of the staff including the General Manager. He also recommended the Central Basin, under his hiring authority, authorize the hiring of Grant Burton, long time attorney at Metropolitan Water District, as the lawyer on the lawsuit. Again the Board went along with his recommendation. Cohen & Burge filed the lawsuit against Pacifica alleging fraud. Two week later without Board approval Grant Burton amended the lawsuit eliminating the fraud allegation from the lawsuit since he could not articulate the fraud. To date the General Manager stands firm and tells the Board that Pacifica committed fraud. This conflicting information between the General Manager and Cohen & Berge (eliminating fraud from the complaint) is troubling to say the least. If there is fraud like the GM says, I believe we have a responsibility to act on it and demand Central Basin gets its money back.

    Without revealing information discussed in closed session I look forward to seeing this matter until the end. I am committed to protecting the interest of the District. It is my hope that all the facts will be discovered in the course of this lawsuit and the Central Basin ratepayers will learn the truth. Again let me reiterate this lawsuit is a result of actions taken before I was sworn in to the Central Basin Water District Board.

    I will make every effort to fully disclose information regarding this and other pending legal matters. However, I will note that LCNN prints half truths, out right lies and in other cases distorts facts. LCCN pits certain Directors against each other and writes stories favoring other Directors and their “anonymous sources” who enjoy a cozy relationship with its editors.

    Finally, since some of these matters are being litigated I may not be able to disclose everything but I will do my very best without compromising the Central Basin.

    • Editor says:

      LCCN takes exception to Ms Vasquez’ fraud charge. The fraud charge was against Art Aguilar not Pacifica that is why the fraud charge was dropped against Pacifica, it had to do with Aguilar altering contracts after Board approval which we first broke. You might be able to prove Aguilar altered the contract, by it would be difficult to prove Pacifica knew about it.

      Ms Vazquez, why did you fire Burton, rehire him, and then fire him again?

      Also we stand behind everything we print, and have been told by inside sources, we are 100% correct in everything we report.

      Stay tuned we have other stories coming.

      • Wayne Carter Sr. says:

        This is all very disturbing. Ms. Vasquez does not come off as sincere or genuine. She is very obviously making feeble excuses. I agree that she does need to come clean regarding the potential conflict that exists given the donations bestowed on her by Pacifica Services, Inc.

        I would certainly add that Ms. Vasquez must acknowledge that Mr. Apodaca has a serious conflcit as evident by the $34,000 in donations he’s received and the relationship between his lady friend and Pacifica’s executives/owners. Vasquez doesn’t need to be her brother’s keeper to display her ethical side and call into question this man’s pitfalls. Apodaca has an ethical conflict and must step aside from discussions and negotiations, however, considering his participation in his sexual harassment case discussion recently, I’m not holding my breath.

        It is regretful that Ms. Vasquez has decided to align herself with members of the Board who lack principal, ethical aptitude and any honorable intentions (yes, you too Mr. Roybal). Young lady, please listen to the better part that exists inside of you.

    • M Rogers says:

      Way to go Leticia! Everyone knows this wanabe blog is only parroting what the crooks Chacon and Hawkins tell the idiots to write! This Perez guy sold out to them and that’s how he got his position after trying for years and now he thinks he can get work for his old firm by doing some slick illegal maneuvers. Keep at it Leticia and don’t let toile paper bother you!

      • OMG says:

        I guess Leticia found one person to stick up for her and not a smart one at that, what a shock. Obviously M Rogers cannot read because if you could you put Vasquez in the search bar of this site and find what a crook she is. She is also defending Apodaca on sexual harassment charges as a woman-outrageous. She has also done nothing against Roybal, this website catching him earning money while in teacher jail-and she is a teacher.
        She took thousands from Pacifica, Ernie, his brother his kids, conflict of interest yes? M Rogers or Leticia boyfriend Ron Wilson please go back to the hole you came from.

  • It's Now or Never says:

    Cozy relationships Ms. Vasquez, why don’t you address the $46,000 in campaign contributions from Pacifica and it’s sources? You, Roybal and pervert Apodaca made off like thieves!! Let’s start there. You campaigned against corruption and tossed Pacifica under the bus repeatedly while campaigning for the seat, now you’re dragging your feet when your District goes after Camacho & Co? Come on Leticia, a $1,797 margarita fundraiser at Andy Camacho’s El Paseo Inn six months after you were elected??? I mean really??

    Simply because Grant Burton altered his litigation strategy doesn’t mean some Cardinal Sin has been made, strategies are ever evolving in legal matters. Central Basin showed Dave Hill the door as a result of his cozy relationship with Paciifica and there are emails that prove that. Golf anybody? Campaign donations, anyone anyone?

    Pacifica specifically wrote emails to Hill reminding him that more funds needed to be added to their contract! Pacifica knew that they were billing without Board approved funding. These guys made $5 million off Central with 8 no-bid contract extensions in FOUR YEARS!!!! Why are you defending them? Pacifica didn’t build anything, they project managed and acted as in-house engineers. Do the math Leticia, wouldn’t Central need to have done $50 million in construction to justify $5 million in Pacifica’s fees (at 10% of course)? Not to mention 10% would be a ridiculous amount in the first place for such services.

    Playing your silly games hiring and firing lawyers during an active case is bush-league. This is amateur hour at best. Burton is an acknowledged professional lawyer and do you really expect anyone to believe he wasn’t qualified to see this case to the end? You can make excuses about fraud all day long but everyone can see firing Burton was an attempt to derail the case.

    You can’t BS and lie your way out of this Diector Vasquez, there’s simply too many smart people watching over your shoulder and Roybal and Apodaca are simply too stupid to help you carry the weight here defending Uncle Ernie. Cut loose from those two before they sink under the weight of their lies and cover ups. It’s your ass. You know know Apodaca is on his way out and Roybal is a drunken timebomb ticking.

    It’s time to reevaluate while the Titantic is approaching it’s fate.

  • Compton Calling says:

    I’m hearing that Leticia’s buddy Issac Galvan, Compton’s Newest “Latino” City Councilman has been appointed that city’s Metropolitan Water District Board Member. Yep, the kid from Commerce who moved to Compton 30 days before filing period began to qualify for the “Latino” vote is now a water expert alongside his buddy Leticia, the most crooked person in water.

    People better start taking notice what’s happening to our water delivery system. We have scumbag’s slowly moving out the engineers, lawyers and business leaders who have long managed and run MWD. Mark my word that in a few years our water costs will skyrocket due to the fixes being put into place now.

    I’m sure Angel Gonzalez will work his way into MWD since people got wise and booted his ass from Compton as Issac’s “assistant”. It’s feeding time for the pigs!

  • Inside Edition says:

    El Monte employees, Randy and anyone else interested: Pacific Services has made there way inside the city using the same tactics. There are other companies and people you’ve reported on in earlier stories are still there an no one seems to want to take a closer look. It would be nice if there were a local paper in the SGV that had the guts to investigate some truth and ask some direct questions and get the answers in print, if you can. Cerritos is lucky to have you guys on the job for them. Maybe you’ll look into some other corrupt folks since you already nameed some of them.

  • M Rogers says:

    Is everyone really so stupid they don’t realize these articles are only to cover up Chacon’s last arrest where he tried to blame on his brother (see LA Times article). what chance of re-election does he have without this blog throwing crap everywhere but at the true convicts -Chacon & Hawkins!

  • Wayne Carter Sr. says:

    Mr. Rogers, I believe that a vendor who is being sued by the District that donates $46,000 in campaign contributions to Mr. Apodaca, Mr. Roybal & Ms. Vasquez is slightly more relevant than any of Mr. Chacon’s after-hours indiscretions. As tempting as it may be divert attention from what is described in this news story, I fear most will see your comments as utter nonsense.

    The actions of these so-called “Roybal Three” are highly questionable and should be of concern to the authorities. These three have travelled a path that leans towrads the appearance of corruption and misguided comments about Mr.’s Chacon and Hawkins are quite frankly, pathetic.

    • Chacon / Hawkins Partners Inc. says:

      Mr. Carter – I think we can all agree that without reservation all 5 of these bums need to go. There isn’t one legitimate servant of the people among them.

      Chacon’s “after-hours indiscretion,” as you refer it was evidently more than a simple indiscretion to have caused him to be arrested.

      If the after-hours fun compromises and puts at risk their ability to do their sworn duty they need to go.

      Too often politicians don’t due what’s right, because their integrity is compromised and for them it’s either go along with the status quo or take your chances have your “after-hours indiscretion,” exposed to your family and the voters.

      It’s my opinion both Chacon and Hawkins are integrity compromised officials and is why so, far they have only been willing to give sound bites to this paper.

  • Wayne Carter Sr. says:

    In reference to the post by Chacon/Hawkins Partners Inc., I agree that the caliber of our elected officials “overall'” is lacking, and that includes country wide, state wide county wide and certainly locally. So what’s to be done? What’s the solution?

    Your proposed solution of “all 5 of these bums need to go” is quite frankly, unoriginal and meaningless. We can’t get rid of everybody! Where do we start and where does it end? More importantly, who replaces them? You perhaps? You don’t even identify yourself Sir (or Madam?) and I’m too old to throw my name in the ring.

    Your post accomplishes absolutely nothing. The article we are all responding to highlights the corruption of three individuals at Central Basin. The facts have been presented to us and we are responding appropriately. Your decision to throw in Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Chacon is nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention from those most deserving. Why would you do this?

    You question the integrity of Mr. Chacon which is neither here nor there. The list would be long if we actually went there I would fear, starting with many of our great nation’s highest elected officials.

    I think readers of this paper would question your integrity given your reluctance to reveal your true identity?

    I implore you, consider at least identifying yourself appropriately as an ally and supporter of either Roybal,Apodaca or Vasquez (or most likely of all three). Of course, it’s your choice to continue casting dispersions on Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Chacon, but please understand that you’re simply not cleaver enough to pull off this silly charade effectively. Have a good weekend all.