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Metropolitan Water District Employee Accuses Central Basin Director Bob Apodaca of Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

Central Basin Director Robert “Bob” Apodaca has been accused of sexual harassment; in 2013, he settled another harassment case for $670,000.


BY BRIAN HEWS[email protected]

Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News has obtained a letter addressed to Abel Salinas, the Chief Ethics Officer for the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California, from a MWD employee accusing current Central Basin Municipal Water District Director and MWD Director Robert “Bob” Apodaca of sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, intimidation, and retaliation.

The ethics office “operates as an independent entity. It is responsible for protecting employees filing complaints, the confidentiality of sources and the due-process rights of those accused of violating MWD’s own ethics rules.

The employee, who submitted the letter anonymously, said that Apodaca was  “creating a hostile working environment” inside the massive agency.

The January 9, 2020 letter was also “carbon copied” to all MWD Directors, General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger, and MWD attorney Marsha Scully, but a spokesperson for the MWD would not confirm or deny the letter was circulated.

The two-page explicit letter describes in graphic detail the alleged perverted actions of Apodaca, who was accused of sexual harassment in 2013 by Sigrid Lopez in a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, case number BC528184.

HMG-LCCN was first to report on the complaint and eventual settlement, exclusively obtaining the settlement agreement, and later the actual investigation documents, that graphically detailed Apodaca’s exploitation of Lopez.

That case was settled for $670,000 using a Mutual Settlement and Release where Apodaca did not admit guilt and Lopez promised not to take any further actions.

The actual cost was much more, as the settlement took many months with sources inside Central Basin saying the entire cost to ratepayers was upwards of $800,000.

The accusations in the MWD letter are eerily similar to what Lopez alleged Apodaca did and said to her in 2012-’13, including taking her shopping and showering her with gifts, his exploits while working for Coors Brewing, asking about the employees’ marital status, how his relationship with his common-law wife Caroline had deteriorated, how he takes Viagra, inappropriate comments and unwanted touching.

The complainant first alleged that Apodaca on “various occasions made sexually inappropriate advances.”

“Mr. Apodaca told me that I should cover my sexy legs because they drive an old man crazy, and that my legs are causing a distraction.”

Similar to Lopez’ 2013 accusations, she stated that Apodaca told her, “he used to have a multi-million dollar budget at Coors to wine and dine politicians with women and booze; he also offered to take me shopping and buy expensive clothes if I modeled them first.”

Intimidation was a big part of Apodaca’s actions, with Lopez and other women at Central Basin alleging that Apodaca said he would get them fired if they reported him.

The complainant in the letter alleged similar actions, “Mr. Apodaca insisted that I sit next to him at a recent lunch. Because he is my superior I felt an obligation to do what he asked. As I was sitting next to him, he placed his hand on my upper leg. During the conversation he asked about my marital status.” 

“He asked me to be a ‘special friend’ with ‘paid privileges,’ I told him I was married. He said that was OK, then he talked about his wife Caroline and how their relationship was that of a servant to a maid.” 

“Don’t be concerned about her,” Apodaca stated, “I keep her in her place.”

At one time during the lunch, she stated that Apodaca told her to go get him a beverage, with the complainant alleging that, as she was walking away, he was staring at “specific parts of her body.”

When she returned with the drink Apodaca pulled a blue pill out of his pocket, presumably Viagra, which he offered to consume. 

“He told me he takes the little blue pill often to help get him going and that he could not resist but tell me that I am a turn on and made him feel young again.”

She stated that Apodaca asked to take her on a shopping spree after meetings if she promised to model the clothes, “he offered to take me to Victoria’s Secret.”

According to the complainant, it was at that time that Apodaca became sexually graphic and threatening in his comments.

“He said that he spends hours in front of the TV watching Victoria’s Secret shows playing with himself.”

“I was shocked at the comments and told him I was going to report him.”

Apodaca then played his most familiar card, threatening the young lady with termination.

“Mr. Apodaca threatened to get me fired and that nobody would believe me because of his 20 years of experience in water. He said he has many friends that would protect him.”

The letter finished, “I am requesting an investigation. I am fully aware that I’m not Mr. Apodaca’s first victim and that he has an established pattern and practice of this type of behavior his entire career.”

On their website, the ethics office states that they operate independently, but when HMG-LCCN inquired about the letter and investigation, the ethics office deferred to the press contact.

HMG-LCCN first called Ethics Chief Salinas, who was evidently surprised that the newspaper learned about the investigation.

Salinas, a former Department of Labor investigator, answered the phone, was asked about the investigation and immediately said “please hold,” putting the phone down instead of pressing the hold the key. Salinas returned almost two minutes later and stated he “would have somebody call.”

That somebody was press contact Rebecca Kimitch, who in a phone call last Friday, would not confirm or deny the investigation.

Kimitch was informed later in the day via email that HMG-LCCN had the letter; with Kimitch saying she had not seen the letter.

When asked if other MWD Board Members had seen the letter, Kimitch once again declined to confirm or deny they had seen the letter.

Phone call into MWD’s General Counsel, Marsha Scully have not been returned.

Several emails into Apodaca went unreturned.

Emails into Apodaca allies, Vice President John Oskoui, who is the Assistant City Manager in Downey, and Director Dan Arrighi, both of whom are unelected and  appointed under Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s ill-conceived AB 1794, went unreturned.

The two have steadfastly defended all of Apodaca’s actions, walking out of several meetings, purposely disrupting and ending the meetings so no actions could be taken.

Central Basin Board President Leticia Vasquez did not mince words and demanded action, “our elected board, Vice-President Art Chacon, and Directors Phil Hawkins and Martha Camacho-Rodriguez, stand united against this serial sexual predator who continues to use his position of power to abuse women. Mr. Apodaca must immediately resign.”

HMG-LCCN talked to several lawmakers, who wanted to remain anonymous, who agreed with Vasquez saying Apodaca should step down, similar to Assembly woman Cristina Garcia after she was accused of sexual harassment, until the investigation is complete.