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Central Basin Water President Apodaca Using Government Funds for Personal Use


Central Basin President Bob Apodaca

Central Basin President Bob Apodaca

By Brian Hews

Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained documents that show the Los Angeles based law firm of Tafoya and Garcia (TG) has been illegally granted permission, without a vote by the Central Basin Board of Directors (CB), to re-investigate the Sigrid Lopez sexual harassment lawsuit that was settled months ago for $670,000 against Central Basin President Bob Apodaca.

HMG-CN has been told by two municipal attorneys that the TG covert investigation amounts to a misuse of government funds for personal use and should “absolutely” be brought to the attention of Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacy for investigation possible prosecution.

 

Robert Tafoya and David Garcia.

Robert Tafoya and David Garcia.

“How could there have been a vote to allow the Lopez investigation,” CB Director Art Chacon asked. “Apodaca had to recuse himself from any vote pertaining to Lopez, and Phil (CB Director Hawkins) and I would never vote for an investigation, so who allowed this so-called investigation to go forward? It’s a total sham and use of government funds for personal use by Apodaca.”

HMG-CN previously reported that TG was awarded a sole-source (no-bid) contract by Directors Apodaca, Vasquez and Roybal to investigate the performance of former CB General Manager Tony Perez, after Perez was fired for cause.

Perez has since filed a wrongful termination claim against the District and Directors Apodaca, James Roybal and Leticia Vasquez for $8.2 million, which is ongoing.

Click here to see story.

The investigation, according to documents, started December of last year. As of last month, TG, where every attorney working on the CB investigation earns a hefty $350 per hour, had generated over $34,000 in fees related to the settlement with sources telling HMG-CN that another $35,000 has been billed.

Documents obtained by HMG-CN show that TG bills the city of Lynwood only $175 per hour.

All tolled, Tafoya and Garcia has billed over $150,000, when the initial contract with CB only allowed $100,000.

Sigrid Lopez was a contractor for the District, employed between June 2012 and December 2012. Lopez filed a claim and subsequent lawsuit against CB and Apodaca in June 2013, alleging that she was sexually battered and harassed by Apodaca and wrongfully terminated. Lopez’s claim was sent to the District’s insurance carrier, ACWA-JPIA who settled the claim in June 2014 for $670,000. ACWA-JPIA cancelled the District’s insurance 60-days later citing “board dysfunction.”

CB Director Art Chacon commented “Director Hawkins and I refused to take part in the hiring of Tafoya and Garcia because we knew that they were being brought in after the fact to manufacture cause in Perez’s termination, and we didn’t want any part of it. I recently asked staff why Tafoya was still billing the District, and was told that they were investigating Sigrid Lopez. I was shocked since the Lopez case was settled last year.”

CB GM Kevin Hunt Denies Investigation

Central Basin GM Kevin Hunt

Central Basin GM Kevin Hunt

In what on the surface appears to be a cover-up, HMG-CN sent an email to CB General Manager Kevin Hunt and CB Public Affairs Director Joseph Legaspi June 5, 2015 asking if there was a TG investigation into Lopez.

Legaspi, with Hunt’s permission, sent back an email to HMG-CN flatly denying the question answering, “They are not.”

HMG-CN also asked in the email that since Director Apodaca could not vote, who approved the new investigation?

The comment from Legaspi and Hunt said, “There is no new investigation.”

“This is money laundering plain and simple,” said one long-time observer and former employee of CB, who did not want to be identified, “Leticia Vasquez and James Roybal will have at least $100,000 each for their next election courtesy of all these covert billings.”

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