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Dysfunctional Central Basin Water Board Removes General Manager and Replaces Board President

By Brian Hews

By a 3 to 2 vote today, Central Basin Municipal Water Directors James Roybal, Bob Apodaca, and Leticia Vasquez, the “Roybal Three,” voted to put current GM Tony Perez on “paid administrative leave” and revisit his evaluation at the next scheduled meeting which will occur October 10.

Perez was given a list from Director Vasquez that outlined his over 100 “violations,” with Perez having two weeks to respond, but as one source put it, “the writing is on the wall.”

“How do you put together a list of over 100 alleged violations against Perez without the three of them getting together to talk about them,” said one attendee of the board meeting who did not want to be identified, “this has to be a Brown Act violation, where is the DA (District Attorney Jackie Lacey)?

In humiliating fashion, HR Manager Dina Hidalgo followed Perez out of the agency boardroom in what looked to be a “clean out your desk” scenario.

Before the closed session to evaluate Perez took place, the Roybal Three took the unusual step to once again shake up the board, and removed current Board President Phil Hawkins, much like they did when they removed Director Art Chacon in early 2013.

No reason was given for the removal of Hawkins, who completed, with the help of GM Perez, the largest water sale in the history of the Commerce agency.

In brazen fashion, the three took turns nominating each other for the new positions, with Apodaca taking the President position and Roybal assuming the Vice-President position.

Directors Chacon voted no on both motions with Hawkins voting for Apodaca.

After taking the chair, Apodaca stumbled through the remainder of the meeting, even calling for the GM comments, after he and the two others unceremoniously voted to suspend Perez.

It has been well-documented that Apodaca recently cost the district $670,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit and Roybal is under investigation by the LAUSD for violating “Teacher Jail” policy.

Roybal has never commented as to why he is in teacher jail

When asked to comment on why she voted to place Apodaca as President and Roybal as Vice President, Director Vasquez refused to comment.

After being removed as president, Hawkins conceded that although he had been honored to have held the position, he acknowledged that perhaps it was best to distance himself from the fray.  “For some unknown reason these three feel untouchable, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why or how,” stated Hawkins.  “I’ll continue to hold my breath praying that things don’t get worse.”

At the end of the meeting, the new majority moved to hire as “special counsel” the law firm of Tafoya and Garcia, based out of downtown Los Angeles, “to handle the terms of Perez’ separation.”

After the meeting, HMG-CN learned that David Garcia is a very good friend of “Little Al” Robles, the current Water Replenishment District (WRD) Director and Carson Councilman. The two attended school together.

Tafoya and Garcia also represent the city of Lynwood where Vasquez was recalled in a wide-ranging scandal that saw her give evidence against others while also being accused by the FBI of jury tampering.

HMG-CN also learned that there could be a conflict of interest between Central Basin (CB) and Tafoya and Garcia.

Three years ago, CB filed a lawsuit against WRD for “cyber-squatting.”

WRD had set up various websites with the name “Central Basin” and published “negative but legitimate” older articles about CB on those websites.

WRD, with the help of Robles, hired Tafoya and his good friend Garcia, to handle the case, but it never went to trial.

The case was eventually deemed frivolous and was withdrawn by CB with sources telling HMG-CN that Tafoya and Garcia took home over $100,000 for “basically doing nothing.”

CB Director Art Chacon was incensed after the meeting. “This was planned a few weeks ago, it is obvious. Apodaca has already lost his race and he is showing his hand, he wants to bring the district down. So he runs back to Roybal and Vasquez for help. They are friends of convicted felon Rick Mayer and felon plead down to a misdemeanor Angel Gonzales. They brought in an attorney who went to school with Robles, I can guarantee you at the next meeting they will fire our current attorney Arnold Glasman and start approving contracts.”

One source at CB told HMG-CN, “look out for contracts that have been rejected by Perez, those are the contracts that will be brought back to the board to be approved. Also be weary of contracts placed after Glasman is gone, the new attorneys will say that they have looked them over and that the board should approve, it happens all the time in this type of situation.“

HMG-CN called Tafoya and Garcia’s office Wednesday after the meeting but the call was not returned at the time of publication.

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