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Hews Media Group-Community News’ Central Basin Water District Investigation Results in $30,000 Fine From FPPC

Aguilar

Former Central Basin General Manager Art Aguilar’s unreported golf outings with Pacifica Services was exposed by an HMG-CN investigation resulting in a $30,000 fine levied by the Fair Political Practices Commission on Aguilar.

By Brian Hews

A Hews Media Group-Community News February 2014 expose that centered around Central Basin Municipal Water District (CBMWD) former General Manager Art Aguilar and Pacifica Services, owned by Ernie Camacho, has culminated in a $30,000 fine levied on Aguilar by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

The FPPC investigation confirmed what HMG-CN had reported, that Aguilar routinely accepted rounds of golf, food, drinks and party invitations from Pacifica Services who did millions of dollars in business with the district.

The FPPC agreement stated that Aguilar accepted about $3,500 worth of gifts from the company during his last four years at the water district, but did not report most of them on his annual statements of economic interests.

The settlement stated, “disclosure of economic interests is important to provide transparency and prevent conflicts of interest, by not disclosing those gifts Aguilar concealed his conflict of interest in recommendations he made to the board that led to over $6 million in contracts being awarded to the source of the undisclosed gifts.”

At the time of the golf dates, Pacifica Services was banking millions of dollars in lucrative engineering consulting contracts with the besieged agency that is the focus of a massive criminal probe by the US Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service.

HMG-CN obtained documents through a public record records request that showed Aguilar and Vice-President Mike Sisson taking more than twenty golf outings in a 17-month period, with Aguilar failing to report all but three outings on his Statement of Economic Interest-Form 700.

See Aguilar 700’s, click here.

HMG-CN found documents that indicated almost every Friday, Maggie Gomez, administrative assistant at the Commerce-based water utility would book tee times for the group at some of the most exclusive courses in Southern California, with Aguilar always treated and serving as the center of attention.

Talega in San Clemente, Tijeras Creek in Ranch Santa Margarita, Black Gold in Yorba Linda, and Industry Hills in the city of Industry. Most of these courses have green fees over $90 per person, sometimes much more than that figure, and that does not count on-course and after-round food and beverages.

Taking into account the hourly pay rates of those involved, Ernie Camacho (estimate) $500; Sisson $165; Hennesey $125; and Aguilar $100 per hour and adding those to the green fees and the food and beverage, the total could easily reach $6,000.

Worse, the outings would last the entire day with no one from the group going back to work at CBMWD.

Shockingly, CBMWD would be charged for those hours by Pacifica.

Aguilar, always invited yet never paying, would relish the perks of being GM and cozy up to one of the district’s biggest vendors, Pacifica Services, a company who sued CBMWD, with CBMWD counter suing for negligence and contract fraud, in Superior Court.

The case was settled and Pacifica was paid over $700,000.

In its investigation, HMG-CN also obtained emails about the golf dates.

One source at CBMWD said told HMG-CN, “these are the golf dates mentioned in emails, there were many more that were not documented in writing electronically, I can tell you that.”

See golf emails, click here.

According to the Fair Political Practices Commission website Form 700’s are “an important means for the official that files them, the media, and the public to help gauge where potential conflicts of interest may exist. These state mandated forms include information about the sources of an official’s income, investments, business positions, real property holdings and gifts. Merely reporting an economic interest is not a conflict in itself; a conflict arises when an official governmental decision, made by the official, impacts their economic interests.”

The key words here are “impacting their economic interests.” For Aguilar and Pacifica Services, using golf courses to conduct taxpayer business became routine, and standard operating procedure.

In August of 2012, HMG-CN exclusively obtained documents that detailed an orchestrated collaboration between Aguilar, former Interim CBMWD GM Dave Hill, Sisson, and Camacho, showing contracts being altered that were never approved by the Directors at CBMWD.

See documents, click here.

At the time, the besieged public agency was the focus of a massive criminal probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

HMG-CN also obtained email exchanges between Hill, Camacho, his son Michael Camacho, and Sisson dating back several years that graphically outlined how the private consulting firm leveraged its political clout at the agency outside of the public glare.

The documents outlined how Camacho, Sisson, and Aguilar interfaced via company emails and graphically displayed how the “pay to play” scheme between the agency and Pacifica Services was conducted both at CBMWD and on the golf course.

Based on source inside CBMWD, HMG-CN made additional public record request that showed the depth of control Pacifica and Sisson had over CBMWD and Aguilar.

One CBMWD source who did not want to be identified said, “ Sisson, Aguilar, and Hennessey would go golfing almost every week, blatantly using company resources to schedule their outings, everyone here knew where they were going, Sisson would make sure of that by wearing golf outfits on Friday. They did not care because they had Aguilar in their pocket.”

 

 

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