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EXCLUSIVE: Central Basin Leaked Confidential Health Records to Los Angeles Times, Violating Federal Laws

By Brian Hews

Monday Jan. 18, 2017, 5:26 p.m.

Hews Media Group-Community News has learned that a Central Basin Municipal Water District (CB) employee or Director leaked federally protected and confidential personnel and health records of a former employee to the Los Angeles Times violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which is a federal offense.

According to sources, the records were illegally obtained by the offender prior to Feb. 2017, when three new directors were appointed, narrowing the list to a handful of people who could have acquired and eventually leaked the records.

Those same sources have told HMG-CN that CB’s law firm Nossaman, for unknown reasons, is not involved in the investigation and that CB General Manager Kevin Hunt and the Administration and Ethics Committee (AEC) are “handling the investigation internally.”

Further clouding the process, the investigation is being conducted by Hunt even though CB pays $15,000 per year to manage the “Ethics Hotline” and investigate any accusations that are anonymously left on the phone-based Hotline.

The illegal leak could expose CB to yet another costly self-inflicted settlement or lawsuit similar to the massive $670,000 payout to Sigrid Lopez to settle accusations that Director Bob Apodaca sexually harassed her.

The records leak to the L.A. Times occurred within the last few months, sometime in October 2017.

But the actual records are at least four years old and contained not only HIPAA protected records, but also a CB investigation into the employee who is the subject of the records.

At the time CB’s Board consisted of only five elected officials: Bob Apodaca, James Roybal, Leticia Vasquez, Art Chacon, and Phil Hawkins.

When contacted by HMG-CN, Tony Perez, who was GM at the time said, “I can say unequivocally that I did not release the report nor do I know who leaked the report. I left the District over 3-years ago, but my recollection is that only the Board members had access to the report through the HR [Human Resources] Department.”

Current CB Directors Art Chacon and Phil Hawkins went on the record saying they did not leak the report.

Chacon told HMG-CN, “I have an idea who leaked the report to the L.A. Times but I will let the investigation run its’ course.”

Given Perez’ statement that “only Board members had access to the report,” that would leave current President Bob Apodaca, former Director James Roybal, or current Director Leticia Vasquez as the only Board members who had access to the confidential records.

HMG-CN sent in a request for to all three, as of time of publication, none had responded, Roybal now resides in Florida.

The records were leaked to the L.A. Times sometime around Oct. 2017, yet the explosive issue has only been recently addressed by Hunt and the Administration and Ethics Committee (AEC).

The Chair of the AEC is CB Vice President Pedro Aceituno, with members listed as Directors Mark Grajeda and Leticia Vasquez; Director Phil Hawkins is the alternate.

Recent CB online documents showed that the January AEC meeting listed a closed session agenda item as “Significant Exposure to Litigation.”

Just days later, CB pulled the agenda off the website and cancelled the AEC meeting for “lack of quorum.” Two days later the cancellation notice was altered for “lack of committee items,” even though the pulled agenda showed discussing “significant exposure to litigation.”

HMG-CN has recently learned that GM Hunt is “in the final stages of completing the investigation.”

Hunt also indicated CB’s attorneys are “in contact with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office regarding this matter.”

HMG-CN sent an email to the L.A. Time reporter who received the leaked documents, as well as his boss, for comment, as of time of publication, neither had answered.

Sources are telling HMG-CN that an L.A. Times article related to the records is imminent.

  • BS Detector says:

    The LA Times has never reported on the corruption at Central Basin like this paper has. It’s a shame they would stoop to breaking federal law to game a nothing story like a six year old injury report. I’m glad you called them out Brian.