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OP/ED: Central Basin Director Leticia Vasquez Slammed at Her Own Press Conference

By Brian Hews

Central Basin Director Vasquez at her Mar. 13 press conference.

The embattled Central Basin Municipal Water District (CB) exists for the purpose of providing fresh drinking water to two million residents residing in 24 cities.

It is a far cry from what is going on these days where the water agency’s main function seem to be spending money on lawyers, with certain directors routinely back-stabbing each other and providing fodder for myopic journalists who have little background on the Commerce-based agency.

Thursday, March 13 was no exception.  Director Leticia Vasquez, the CB Director representing the communities of South Gate, Lynwood, Willowbrook, Florence-Graham, as well as portions of Compton and Carson, called a hastily arranged 9 a.m. press conference at District Offices.

Her “agenda” was to launch an ill-conceived attack on fellow Director Art Chacon for a 2010 auto accident and his admittedly spotty driving history.

The press conference did not go well for Ms. Vasquez.

Vasquez was only able to muster two supporters while Chacon supporters numbered in the 20’s.

HMG-CN was not invited but investigative reporter Randy Economy and reporter Peter Parker went anyway.

About a half dozen other news agencies stopped by to give Ms. Vasquez’ conference a curious peek, but all that was on display was a Director’s desperate attempt to discredit a colleague, not solve the real problems facing CB.

There were dozens of protest signs at the conference that summed up where things were headed.

“Recall Leticia Vasquez Again” (proudly displaying a copy of HMG’s now-famous picture of Vasquez smoking a cigar) and “Fools Stand with Leticia Vasquez” as well as choice signs attacking her Board allies James Roybal and Bob Apodaca.

Like a teacher trying to charm parents at an elementary school open house, Vasquez began to articulate Chacon’s misdeeds of conspiracy and corruption, inexplicably equating them to a Watergate-level crime.

But Vasquez press conference was soon hijacked by her own sordid past and recent misdeeds.

Former CB Assistant GM Ron Beilke stepped up to, as he put it, “put things in perspective.”

Editor’s note, Beilke was instrumental in the election of Roybal and Vasquez, a recognition that he dismissed by saying “some good people tried to do the right thing but with the wrong candidates.”

As Vasquez began her pontificating that ratepayers in the CB deserved better, Beilke stepped up to pepper Vasquez with a barrage of fact-based questions.

Beilke asked if Vasquez will bring up Director Apodaca’s four sexual harassment lawsuits that could cost CB millions.

Vasquez was silent.

She was asked about Roybal attending LAUSD’s “Teacher’s Jail” and earning money while in jail. Roybal was actually present at this press conference, once again blatantly violating LAUSD policy.

Vasquez was silent.

She was asked about her role in eliminating the CB Ethics Committee during Apodaca’s sexual harassment investigations.

Vasquez was again silent.

Beilke then focused in on Vasquez’ role in two sole-source contracts that were awarded to Jasmine Cannick and Maurice Chenier early in her term.

If under $25,000, sole-source contracts can be awarded by the GM without CB Board approval.

Those contracts, which were extended and eventually cost CB $44,000, were entered into by former interim COO Dave Hill, who replaced Chuck Fuentes and who was promoted to GM (along with a huge pay increase) with Vasquez’ approval.

Fuentes, along with Beilke, were fired January 24, 2013.

Beilke outlined the close connections Vasquez had with Cannick and Chenier.

See Cannick’s resume citing her as Vasquez’ Senior Deputy, click here.

He explained that Cannick was hired in Feb. 2013 for “specialized media and public relations services” even though CB had a large public relations department.

He explained that the contract was so controversial that Annette Ramirez, who was the Public Affairs Manager at the time, refused to sign Cannick’s “justification of contract award” memorandum on February 4, 2013.

See memorandum, click here.

Ms. Ramirez was fired two weeks later.

Maurice Chenier was hired through Los Angeles firm Veatch-Carlson to investigate a possible Brown Act violation even though the District is represented by Olivarez-Madruga.

Chenier’s name, as well as Phillip Borini, are cited as the contacts on the contract dated March 15, 2013.

See contract, click here.

Both Chenier’s and Borini’s names appear on Vasquez’ swearing-in VIP guest list on January 7, 2013.

See list click here.

Beilke looked at Vasquez and said, “somehow we’re suppose to believe that Hill somehow just pulled the names Cannick and Chenier out of thin air with no knowledge that one of his Board Members was close personal friends with these people? On top of that, Vasquez recently voted to promote him and gave him a big raise?”

Vasquez was silent.

Beilke went on to explain that simple internet searches of both Cannick and Chenier clearly reveal that Vasquez is connected to both.

An article featuring Cannick that appeared on March 14, 2012 in the Los Angeles Wave explains that Cannick worked for then-Mayor Leticia Vasquez during her time as a Lynwood Council Member.

Other internet searches provide an abundance of evidence linking Chenier to attorney Ron Wilson, Vasquez’ acknowledged boyfriend.

HMG-CN reviewed documents that prove more evidence of a connection between Vasquez’ boyfriend Wilson and Chenier.

One included an internet listing for the Law Offices of Maurice Chenier, LLC displaying the same office and suite number as Wilson.

It was the same address used for Wilson’s considerable campaign donations to Vasquez’ campaign account.

See documents, click here.

Beilke says the point he attempted to make at Vasquez’ press conference was clear, don’t be fooled by her dainty voice and phony smile.

“She is a liar and I can prove it,” added Beilke, “I can provide facts to prove all that I know about her, whether it be about where she really lives (outside of the District), or how much money she took from Ron and Tom Calderon, or about donations she lied about. “

During the conference, Vasquez unsuccessfully attempted to bring fellow Director Bob Apodaca into the fray. Sensing things were not going well, Apodaca uttered no more that two sentences then retreated.

Vasquez then attempted to bring Bell City Councilman Nestor Valencia into the conference.  Valencia was like the proverbial “deer in the headlights.” A proclaimed advocate of Vasquez calling her a great leader who will clean up CB, Valencia was clearly not expecting the backlash.

Valencia must have missed several of HMG-CN’s Dirty Water articles on the “Roybal Three” including the Oct. 9, 2013 article about Vasquez, Apodaca and Roybal eliminating the CB Ethics Committee.

Valencia, a recently announced long-shot candidate for LA County Assessor, was called out as ignorant in declaring his support for Vasquez’ call for Chacon’s resignation.

Valencia eventually steered away from the hard-line stance supporting Vasquez and scurried out a side entrance to avoid questions.

Beilke commented, “I felt that Valencia came to the conference to promote his Assessor’s campaign. I fault Vasquez for not being honest with Valencia, who mistakingly believed that this was another Bell or Calderon scandal.

Beilke says he would like to see Vasquez explain her positions on all accusations.

“If she’s the savior that she would like people to believe, then she should welcome the opportunity to sit down and talk on the record,” Beilke said.

We here at HMG-CN agree.


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