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Central Basin Sues Dir. Leticia Vasquez for ‘Libelous’ Statements in YouTube Video

Vasquez in the video said Downey’s water shows “troubling patterns of water contamination.”

 

BY BRIAN HEWS • MAY 2, 2021

The unauthorized and reckless actions of Central Basin Director Leticia Vasquez-Wilson finally came to a tipping point this past week as the CB Board voted to proceed with legal action against the embattled official, HMG-CN has learned.

A statement to HMG-CN from CB wrote, “This week, the Central Basin Municipal Water District voted to proceed with legal action against Director Leticia Vasquez-Wilson. She has published videos, letters and made potentially libelous public comments to other public agencies representing herself as the Central Basin Municipal Water District without proper board authorization.”

The most egregious violation came when Vasquez published a video online on Mar. 22, 2021.

On April 5, HMG-CN obtained the video with Vasquez seen accusing the city of Downey and their city-owned water company of pumping “undrinkable water” to the city’s residents.

The person filming the video, who will remain nameless, is an activist in Downey who speaks at every City Council meeting, and never has anything good to say.

In the YouTube video, the blogger introduces Vasquez as a “water director in Southeast L.A. giving a tour of Downey’s water facilities.

“Helping us to understand troubling patterns of [Downey] water contamination,” she said.

Vasquez then shows a Feb. 2021 memo from Downey Public Works, “let me go through some of this water contamination.

“Which is really troubling,” reiterating her meme.

The memo stated that the city’s water had not exceeded the Response Levels of 10 parts per million (ppt) for PFOA and 40 ppt for PFOS.

Response Levels are measured on a rolling four-quarter basis, taking the last four quarters and dividing those numbers by four.

But the city’s memo stated, “these are the first quarter (2021) numbers, since only the first quarter sampling has been completed the other three quarters are considered to have zero values,” meaning the numbers did not take into account previous measures.

According to the well numbers on the memo, the PFOA ppt’s were above Response Levels of 10 ppt in almost every well; the PFOS were above Response Levels of 40 ppt in only a couple wells.

“We are working to bring attention to this particular issue,” said Vasquez.

“Our citizens deserve to have clean safe water that is drinkable, and unfortunately it’s not drinkable [in Downey].”

Vasquez does not live in Downey and the city is not in her water district. Downey is part of Division One, represented by Director Martha Camacho Rodriguez.

Although the numbers are alarming, the water is certainly not undrinkable with state law mandating the water agency notify the state and list actions it will take to correct the situation.

Downey lawyers felt the same way and fired off a letter to the Vasquez and her husband-attorney Ron Wilson calling the video and statements false and defamatory.

The CB statement continued, “Vasquez’ actions could result in legal action against the District that has been on a positive turnaround since hiring their new general manager and general counsel.”

That is true, since the board hired GM Alex Rojas last year, finance and operations have stabilized, including $1.2 million in savings this year, $8 million in reserves, and a $500,000 operating margin.

The $500,000 margin has a biennial election expenses of $2.2 million figured into the calculation.

Rojas has dumped several high salary employees in a reorganization of the water company, several of which participated in an attempted takeover of the agency by filing false internal financials and using the agency’s credit card without authorization.

One of them was former CB Director of Finance Andrew Hamilton’s budget; Rojas found that Hamilton had underreported CB revenue by a $1.5 million and overstated expenses by $700,000.

Hamilton did considerable damage before he was released in August 2020, communicating his bogus budget numbers to Moody’s Rating, which triggered a downgrade of the district’s $24.1 million senior lien obligations and $19.4 million subordinate lien obligations.

The downgrade will raise the cost of borrowing and interests payments for the agency and could put Hamilton square in the sights of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But CB is expecting an upgrade from Moody’s provided Vasquez is corralled; and that is what exactly the board did at the meeting.

“The Board also voted to censure Director Vazquez-Wilson for failure to adhere to the administrative code and disregarding the general counsel’s advice to cease and desist misrepresenting the District. The matter has now been referred to the District’s Finance and Administration Committee which hears matters involving Director misconduct. The committee will make a recommendation to the board at its regular May 2021 board meeting.”

The members of the committee are President Arturo Chacon and Directors Robert Apodaca and Phil Hawkins.

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