Cerritos News

Attorney for Firm Suing Central Basin Received Thousands in Campaign Funds from Pacifica Owner Camacho

Camacho was instrumental in attorney Steve Elie’s campaign to win Inland Empire Water Agency board seat.

Central Basin Water Investigation

By Brian Hews and Randy Economy

Hews Media Group-Community News has learned that Steve Elie, the attorney representing controversial multimillionaire business owner Ernie Camacho of Pacifica Services in a heated lawsuit against Central Basin Municipal Water District (CB), received tens of thousands of dollars from Camacho to fund his successful 2010 campaign for a seat on the Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IUEA).

The IUEA is a water agency covering most of Western San Bernardino County and services approximately 800,000 people. Elie represents the cities of Chino and Chino Hills.

HMG-CN has also been told by sources that Elie received an additional $60,000 in loans from Pacifica Services and Camacho to help him win his IUEA Board seat.

Elie is a partner with the firm of Musick, Peeler, and Garett, with offices in six cities in California, including Los Angeles.

It is unknown whether the firm’s principals were fully aware of Elie’s financial relationship with Camacho.

“This relationship between Mr. Elie and Camacho is suspect at best; it clearly influences Mr. Elie’s ability to give objective advice,” said an attorney contacted by HMG-CN.

The IEUA Board consists of five elected members of which Michael Camacho, Ernie Camacho’s son, is also an elected board member.

Elie won his seat in November 2010 and immediately became the Chair of the Real Property Committee on the Metropolitan Water District (MWD).

Sources at the MWD said the promotion to Chair was highly unusual given that Elie was just elected to the IEUA Board.

Elie and Camacho are ardent allies and close friends.  Elie took the place of the previous Chair of the Committee, Phil Hawkins, who is the current President of the Board of Directors at CB.

Hawkins was removed by then CB President James Roybal in January 2013. Camacho and Pacifica  gave over $40,000 in donations to Roybal, and also to CB Directors Bob Apodaca and Leticia Vasquez.

In a 2013 interview with HMG-CN, Hawkins expressed his disgust that he was removed as Chair, saying, “we were doing some good things with the real property division, and now all that has come to a halt.”

It is also well-known that Roybal, Apodaca and Vasquez have attempted to derail the CB lawsuit against Pacifica by firing highly qualified and ex-MWD attorney Grant Burton, with Burton saying all along that CB’s lawsuit is a slam dunk win.

CB President Phil Hawkins, who represents the Cerritos area, stated that the “Roybal Three” had “no logical reason” to fire Burton and his firm Cohen & Burge LLP.

“Grant retired recently after more than 20 years with Metropolitan Water where he served as their in-house litigator. He has shown to be successful in proving CB’s case to the court.  Grant is the best of the best and he was winning our case as evidenced by the court rejecting Pacifica’s request to throw the case out on December 30, 2013. This shows we have a great case against Pacifica, the firing makes no sense at all, unless you look at the contributions,” Hawkins told HMG-CN in a recent interview.

The three have also called a special board meeting tomorrow Mar. 24,  adding a closed session item at the last minute to address the lawsuit against Pacifica, with sources telling HMG-CN that the three are voting to settle the lawsuit in favor of Pacifica.

Calls and emails to Steve Elie and Ernie Camacho for comment went unreturned.

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