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Central Basin Board of Directors Violated the Brown Act at Meeting

Director Juan Garza and VP Martha Camacho worked together, just weeks earlier, Camacho had called Garza a dictator.

May 24, 2024

By Brian Hews

Fireworks erupted at this week’s Central Basin Municipal Water District Board Meeting (CB) when VP Martha Camacho-Rodriguez, along with appointed Director Juan Garza, approved a motion allowing a vote to hire interim General Manager Elaine Jeng for the Commerce-based water agency.

It was a blatant politics-over-agency move by Camacho-Rodriguez; just two weeks ago, she called Garza “a dictator,” and stated”….”our board is not a democracy.”

The authorization to hire the GM was not on the agenda, a clear violation of the Brown Act and California Government Code.

Current President Art Chacon tried to stop the vote but was rudely interrupted every time, only stopping after it was clear the violators were going to force the vote.

Jeng had been properly placed on the agendas of past meetings and rejected by the board on three different occasions. Yet, with the support of CB attorney Victor Ponto, Garza and Camacho placed the item on the agenda and hurriedly took a vote, with no opportunity for the public to comment and without the required 72-hour notice. 

Items can only be added to public agency agendas, provided the board missed the 72-hour deadline for notice, and only under certain circumstances, all of which need to be met, communicated, and accepted by the board at the same meeting.

The circumstances were not communicated on the record prior to adding the interim GM item to the agenda, and nothing was explained to the public about the urgency of adding the item. 

The decision by Camacho-Rodriguez and Garza to ignore the law and force a vote for Ms. Jeng violated several sections of the Brown Act and California Government Code. A letter received by CB from the law firm of Torres and Siegrist, obtained by LCCN stated:

GC 54956(b) states, “a legislative body shall not call a special meeting regarding the salaries, salary schedules, or compensation paid in the form of fringe benefits, of a local agency executive.”

AB 1344 amended certain provisions of the Brown Act after January 1, 2012. AB 1344 mandated that any action to approve or renew the contract of a local agency executive must be taken at a regular board meeting and cannot be approved at a special meeting of the board.

 Senate Bill 1436, which went into effect January 1, 2017, requires that, before taking final action, a local agency’s legislative board must orally report a summary of the recommended compensation of a local agency executive. This report must be made during the same open meeting in which final action on the compensation is to be taken.

LCCN sent questions to the CB Board the afternoon of May 20, asking for comment on the illegal hiring of Jeng, resending the email on May 21. 

Only Director Garza answered writing, “Nah, just been busy Brian. You’ll get my response later today [May 23].”

In his response (at 12 a.m., May 24) Garza defended his decision, “The hiring of our Interim General Manager is, without question, in the best interest of our agency since it has operated without full-time management for over three months now.”

The board placed current CB GM Dr. Alex Rojas on administrative leave illegally, with Garza voting yes, without the proper number of board votes while also violating Rojas’ personal employment contract.

The board cited fraud related to a company called Capstone; a five-month audit that has cost $140,000 has found nothing, according to sources, with the audit firm not appearing for a scheduled presentation at the May 20 meeting.

“For you or anyone to think or declare that that is acceptable by questioning the hiring of our Interim General Manager…is frankly inexcusable, indefensible and shameful. 

The vote to hire Jeng was 4-2: Signal Hill Public Works Director Thomas Bekele left his mark voting yes, Bekele had resigned and was leaving the next day. Other yeas were Garza, Camacho-Rodriguez and James Crawford, with Chacon and Leticia Vasquez-Wilson voting no.

Below is the letter, obtained by LCCN, outlining the violations by the CB Board regarding the hiring of Jeng. Click on images to read a larger document.

  • Hews attacking an Asian woman! Hews wont allow this comment. A blog coming soon to expose all comments hews blocks.

  • DELIA OLIVAS says:

    This newspaper is too much about gossip. It needs to be changed to a more positive paper.

  • Lorenzo says:

    Hews needs to be reported to the FBI