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LCCN Exposé Spurs FPPC Complaint Against Central Basin’s Michael Gualtieri

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February 29, 2024

By Brian Hews • [email protected]

On February 6, 2024 Los Cerritos Community News published an OP/ED outlining how the new majority consisting of Central Basin Municipal Water Board Members President Michael Gualtieri, VP Juan Garza, and Directors Leticia Vasquez-Wilson and Martha Camacho Rodriguez removed Art Chacon as president and removed him from crucial MWD seats, comparing the moves to the 2013-2016 CB Board years that ended up triggering a California State audit.

Deja Vu – 2024 Central Basin Board Removes Art Chacon, Acts Like 2013 Board.

It took only a short time for the new CB Board to prove LCCN right.

LCCN reported within days of the OP/ED that newly-minted President Michael Gualtieri conducted a meeting – with eight CB employees attending – that included the CB VP Juan Garza.

In the meeting, LCCN was told by sources that Gualtieri, who is GM of La Habra Height County Water District (LHHCWD) with his sidekick Garza next to him, brazenly announced that he is negotiating a professional services contract with the LHHCWD Board of Directors that would allow him to keep his Central Basin seat.

Gualtieri is retiring from his GM position at LHHCWD in May; Gualtieri knows under the CB Board of Directors Administrative Code that his retirement will force him to resign his seat on the CB Board.

The negotiations between LHHCWD and Gualtieri are illegal under Government Code 1090, a law that addresses conflicts of interest for public officials and employees. 

The illicit negotiations would hand Gualtieri thousands annually in taxpayer monies; he would keep his PAID appointment to the CB Board, he would get PAID for attendance at CB meetings, he would get PAID for attendance at the Metropolitan Water District meetings, and he would get PAID for his new position as a LHHCWD consultant.

Section 1090 states, “[the law] prohibits an employee from participating in making government contracts in which the employee within the agency has a financial interest. Section 1090 applies to virtually all state and local officers, employees, and multimember bodies, whether elected or appointed, at both the state and local level.”

“Making” a contract includes final approval of the agreement and involvement in preliminary discussion, planning, and negotiations.

Gualtieri is going all in with his maneuver, not violating 1090 once but violating it multiple times.

Violations of Section 1090 can result in the voiding of contracts, criminal, civil, and administrative penalties, and a ban on holding public office. 

And the LHHCWD Board could be in legal hot water; most agencies require a twelve-month cooling-off period between retirement and returning as a consultant or lobbyist; and LHHCWD ratepayers will wonder why the board is paying Gualtieri.

In addition, the LHHCWD Board is attempting to fly under the radar, calling his consultant agreement a professional services contract not subject to California Contract Laws, which require the contract to go out to bid; that might not go over well with FPPC investigators.

Seeing that the contract negotiations violated Section 1090, the eight employees present at the meeting where Gualtieri said he was staying on the CB Board told someone about the incident,; that person or persons then filed the complaint anonymously.

The anonymous person wrote in the complaint, “Michael Gualtieri, as General Manager of the La Habra Heights County Water District, is negotiating a professional services consulting contract with the LHHCWD board of directors so that he can continue to receive compensation from LHHCWD, the Central Basin Municipal Water District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California upon his retirement scheduled for May 2024.

“If the LHHCWD requires consulting services, they should go out to bid for these services, or there should be a one-year cooling off period upon Mr. Gualtieri’s resignation/retirement before he is hired as a consultant by the LHHCWD.

“By negotiating this professional services contract while he is the current general manager, he is in violation of Government Code 1090, which prohibits public employees from engaging in contracts wherein they have a financial interest.”

Emails into CB Board members, LHHCWD Board members and CB attorney Victor Ponto of Santa Ana based Burke, Williams and Sorensen went unreturned.

The article has been updated to reflect that the employees claim that they did not file the complaint, that they were just witnesses.

  • Jason Lewin says:

    allow my comments punk

    • Brian Hews says:

      This guy calls BH a punk with a FAKE email….🤣

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