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EXCLUSIVE: Former Central Basin Water GM Tony Perez Settles Wrongful Termination Lawsuit for $700,000

Apodaca, Vasquez, and Royal fired Perez “for cause,” costing the agency $625,000. If the three would have dismissed Perez without cause, he would have been paid $200,000.

By Brian Hews

Former CB GM Tony Perez.

Former CB GM Tony Perez.

Hews Media Group-Community News has exclusively learned that former Central Basin Municipal Water District General Manager Tony Perez has settled his wrongful termination lawsuit for $700,000.

Perez confirmed the settlement in a phone conversation earlier today.

Perez told HMG-CN, “I am pleased that we resolved this matter and that we can all move on, other than that I have no additional comments.”

The settlement is another in a long line of costly litigation cases and questionable payments that is a result of the actions of former CB GM Art Aguilar, President Bob Apodaca, Vice-president James Royal, and Director Leticia Vasquez.

Voted to Fire Perez-$125,000 to Tafoya and Garcia

Back in October 2014, Apodaca, Roybal, and Vasquez voted to fire Perez ‘for cause’ indicating misconduct on the part of Perez.

Sources told HMG-CN that Pacifica Services, Inc. CEO Ernie Camacho wanted Perez fired for questioning Pacifica’s no-bid contracts that amounted to over $5 million.

Immediately after his firing, the three voted to hire the Los Angeles based law firm of Tafoya and Garcia (TG) for $100,000, paying the firm an immediate $20,000 retainer to ‘investigate’ Perez.

At the time, Director’s Art Chacon and Phil Hawkins slammed the vote and walked out of the CB boardroom.

The questionable TG investigation was conducted five months before Perez filed his lawsuit.

HMG-CN conducted an investigation of the billings of TG – and the investigators TG was using – and found they billed $90,000 in less than 35 days, with David Garcia and another attorney frequently working 13-hour days, seven days a week, each billing $350 per hour.

In addition, TG investigators who arrived at 9 a. m., logged 15 hours per day working at CB, often working past midnight.

Interestingly, all CB employees leave at 5 p. m.

Shockingly, at a Perez worker’s compensation hearing weeks later, the Commissioner-judge soundly rebuked TG and essentially their $100,000 investigation.

The judge told TG that their investigation was ‘after the fact, ’ that they could be ‘manufacturing information, ’ and that the judge would only speak to the CB representative that was at the hearing.

In the months following, Apodaca, Royal, and Vasquez voted to tender the Perez termination lawsuit to CB’s insurance company in an attempt to settle, which it did for $700,000.

Total Perez price tag, $825,000.

Whistleblower Lawsuit-$300,000 and counting

Director Vasquez, who was recalled for the Lynwood City Council in 2007, is a “party plaintiff” to a whistleblower lawsuit that could net Vasquez over $2 million, suing the agency she was elected to represent.

The attorney fees related to defending the lawsuit are said to be well over $300,000 and counting.





Apodaca’s Sexual Harassment and Questionable Payments-$680,000 and counting

HMG-CN exclusively obtained the settlement documents related to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former female employee with CB against Apodaca that resulted in a massive $670,000 payout for the victim.

Sigrid Lopez, who worked as a public outreach director with CB filed the sexual battery lawsuit against Apodaca in 2012 alleging, among other things, that her contract was not renewed because she refused Apodaca’s sexual advances.

In documents obtained via a public records request, HMG-CN found files detailing over $10,000 in District payments to Director Bob Apodaca’s widely acknowledged common-law wife and Whittier City Commissioner Caroline Medrano, as well as to another Whittier area firm that District sources claim Medrano utilized to conceal a bulk of her fees.

Source are telling HMG-CN there is another sexual harassment lawsuit that could be filed against Apodaca.

Pacifica Services-$1,170,000

Vasquez, Roybal and Apodaca agreed to pay out $870,000 in a settlement with Pacifica Services, owned by Ernie Camacho, and a firm that had contributed thousands of dollars in campaign donations to the three.

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.

Chuck Fuentes and Ron Beilke-$325,000 and counting

Immediately after their 2012 election, Vasquez, Roybal, and Apodaca joined forces and fired Charles P. Fuentes as Interim Chief Executive Officer during a heated special meeting.

Directors Art Chacon and Phil Hawkins opposed the firing of Fuentes.

Fuentes told HMG-CNthat he was advised by General Counsel Arnold Alvarez-Gasman that the “three members of the Board of Directors had voted to release me of my duties. ”

Immediately after that they fired former Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke from his position at CB.

Fuentes filed a wrongful termination lawsuit and eventually settled for $75,000, costing the agency over $50,000 in legal fees.

Beilke filed a wrongful termination lawsuit and attempted to settle for $300,000, which was rejected by Vasquez, Roybal, and Apodaca.

The lawsuit is ongoing and according to sources, has cost CB over $200,000 in legal fees.

Priscilla Segura, Public Information Officer at CB told HMG-CN, “we spoke to the General Manager and Directors, at this time we will be providing no comment.”

See settlement agreement, click here.

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