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Central Basin Water District Pays $870,000 to Settle Pacifica Services Suit 

Central Basin Water Investigation


By Randy Economy and Brian Hews

Officials at the embroiled Central Basin Municipal Water District have agreed to pay out $870,000 in a settlement with a private water consulting firm that had contributed thousands of dollars in campaign donations to current and past elected directors who oversee the public utility.

On Monday, the Board of Directors of the Commerce-based agency reached a settlement agreement with Ernest Camacho, CEO of Pacifica Services, who oversees the controversial private firm.

Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper was the first news outlet in Southern California to report on multi-million dollar contracts that were given to Camacho at Central Basin.  Camacho has been a heavy financial backer of three current directors at the agency in Leticia Vasquez, James Roybal and Robert Apodaca.

Camacho is one of the biggest political players in Southeast LA County and has been rewarded with sizable contracts that have caught the attention of both the Federal Bureau of Investigation on and the United States Attorney’s Office.

Camacho has not been indicted, nor has he been charged with any crimes. Nevertheless, sources who do not want to be publicly identified have repeatedly confirmed to HMG-CN that investigators have questioned several people inside Central Basin about their connections to Camacho.

HMG-CN reported in March that Director Vasquez sent a “personal friend” to represent her in the capacity as legal counsel to secretly negotiate a “yes” vote for settlement for Camacho.

Many inside Central Basin referred to Camacho’s past actions as a “classic shakedown.”

CB’s suit against Pacifica was potentially worth upwards of $5 million to the cash-strapped water agency, so the settlement of $870,000 is very different from what Pacifica was hoping to collect.

Pacifica had counter-sued the District and is seeking in excess of $300,000 in unpaid invoices that CB has determined are invalid.

Pacifica’s long association with Central Basin began in 2007 with a presentation by then agency Consultant Tom Calderon strongly recommending Directors to retain the services of the minority-owned Pasadena engineering firm.

Subsequently, Pacifica bid and won a $600,000 contract in 2007. HMG-CN exclusively published documents that showed eight no-bid contract extensions over the next five years resulting in Pacifica billing in excess of $5 million.

Calderon and his brother State Senator Ronald Calderon eventually were arrested and charged in one of the biggest political corruption scandals to ever rock California, and are currently out on bail.  If convicted on all of their charges, the Calderon brothers could spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

Board Members Phil Hawkins and Art Chacon were outspoken advocates of auditing all of the past billings paid out to Pacifica and Camacho.

On Tuesday, Hawkins told HMG-CN that he defended the board’s decision to settle their disagreement with Pacifica.

“Mathimatically we wanted to get this settled.  We spent a lot to fight this.  We went to three different attorneys, and now was the right time to move forward,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins said that in spite of all of the controversies with Pacifica in the past, “it is a possibility” that Central Basin could in fact do business with Pacifica in the future.

“Right now we have left our relationship in a neutral position,” Hawkins.

“This has been draining.  I have been pushing to get rid of all of these lawsuits.  This is our biggest hurdle,” said Hawkins.

“This is a settlement that was best for both parties to move forward,” said General Manager Tony Perez.


  • In the Shadow of the Park says:

    Phil Hawkins is now on my “TO GO” list. His attitude of “give away the store and leave the door wide open” in order to keep the peace is utter nonsense. Here we go again with the excuses, why is Hawkins so strongly supporting another big $$ bag of payoff for Pacifica?
    Phil Hawkins, shame on you, I thought you were one of the good guys, stop wasting the rate payers money!

  • steve smith says:

    I think there was a conflict of interest, were the folks that represented the CBWD unrelated (as in not in the pay of) the folks they settled with?

    Or was Pacifica “negotiating” with their own political donation recipients?

    Has the money changed hands and settlement details been disclosed yet?

    Or will that come after the loot is gone and the County takes over?

    BTW a county takeover doesn’t mean cheaper water, it means another layer of govt will add costs, and the County has stupid water and power projects everywhere the county can also dump costs onto your property taxes in addition to water & power taxes.

    A double whammy.