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Central Basin Board Works Together to Reorganize Agency Into Profitability


BY BRIAN HEWS • August 21, 2020

Central Basin Director John Oskoui has missed several meetings since January, preventing the agency from moving forward and addressing infrastructure problems left by former GM Kevin Hunt and two Directors who resigned, Frank Heldman and Dan Arrighi; both of whom were appointed, like Oskoui, under Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s 2016 AB 7194.

That all changed last Thursday, with board actions placing the agency solidly in the black and covering crucial debt ratios.

The Central Basin Board was finally able to move forward, even with Oskoui abstaining, approving the hiring of a law firm and the passing of their 20-’21 budget on a 5-0 vote, the group fulfilling the mandate from a judge ruling that five seats is a majority on the board, while installing Letica Vasquez as president.

Voting to approve the budget were President Leticia Vasquez, VP Art Chacon, and Directors Phil Hawkins, Martha Camacho-Rodriguez and Bob Apodaca.

The vote to approve the law firm of Los Angeles-based Baker, Keener & Nahra, LLP will be this week.

The board then immediately moved Central Basin into profitability, reorganizing the agency and implementing a sweeping freeze of fourteen positions effective this past Monday August 17.

The move will save CB $1.8 million for the 20-’21 budget cycle.

With the cuts, the budget went from a multi-million dollar deficit to a $113,000 profit, immediately placing the agency in compliance with debt coverage ratios, something that has not been achieved in years.

Proponents of Central Basin will be quick to point out that a biennial election expense of $1.7 million is included in the ’20-’21 budget expenses.

HMG-CN confirmed with the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder’s office that the expenses are indeed every two years.

Without that expense in ’21-’22, the agency will earn a profit of at least $875,000, and as much as $1.5 million, which should silence critics of the Commerce-based agency.

“We had far too many upper-level managers, some were making over $150,000; sales are flat, it was time to reorganize,” said Vice President Art Chacon,” and with what we did Friday, we immediately became profitable.”

And it could be more. In subsequent days, the board will also re-evaluate the newly implemented $2 Fixed Meter Charge per retail connection that would have provided over $635,000 in annual revenue to the District.

Certain customers of the District, including Oskoui’s employer, the city of Downey,  have filed a lawsuit again the District fighting the meter charge which was a blatant conflict since Oskoui, the assistant city manager of Downey, led the charge to implement the increase.

With agencies such as the MWD, Pico Water, and many others implementing over 5% increases on their customers – Pico Water has implemented a 13% increase – the board  hopes that the cities will drop their lawsuit and accept the charge.

With the recent revelation, as first reported by HMG-CN, that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office of Integrity is reviewing allegations against Oskoui for incompatible offices triggered by his conflict of interest, that could pressure the other cities to drop the lawsuit and give over $630,000 in revenue to Central Basin.

  • […] The agency passed its budget, hired a GM and legal counsel, and eliminated all but five positions; the agency went from a nearly $3 million loss to $140,000 in profit for ’20-’21. […]

  • […] The agency passed its budget, hired a GM and legal counsel, and eliminated all but five positions; the agency went from a nearly $3 million loss to $140,000 in profit for ’20-’21. […]