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Central Basin Directors Attempting to Settle With Pacifica Services at Special Board Meeting

Roybal, Apodaca, and Vasquez changed agenda to include closed session item and Central Basin’s attorneys have not been invited.Central Basin Water Investigation

By Brian Hews

Hews Media Group-Community News has confirmed that Central Basin Municipal Water District (CB) Directors Bob Apodaca, James Roybal and Leticia Vasquez will once again call for a vote to settle CB’s lawsuit against Pacifica Services, Inc., a lawsuit that two high-powered law firms hired by CB have said is a “slam dunk” win for CB.

The vote will take place at CB’s Monday, Mar. 24 Board meeting.

CB filed its lawsuit against Pacifica on July 25, 2013 seeking reimbursement of $539,000.

Pacifica filed their counter lawsuit shortly thereafter demanding payments of nearly $300,000 they claimed it was owed.  Sources say Pacifica has been unable to substantiate those charges with detailed invoices.

Roybal, Apodaca, and Vasquez were unsuccessful in their last attempt to settle the Pacifica lawsuit in favor of Pacifica at the Thursday Mar. 13 Board meeting.

Pacifica CEO Ernie Camacho was present at the Mar. 13 meeting with a bodyguard, watching over the unsuccessful vote

Brown Act Violation?

CB originally posted the Mar. 24 agenda at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 22. The agenda listed no items to be discussed in closed session.

A revised agenda was posted on the same day 7.5 hours later at 6:27 p.m. announcing that CB’s and Pacifica’s mutual lawsuits were slated for discussion in closed session.

According to a source close to the agency, the closed session items were not presented to Board President Phil Hawkins.

The additions violate the “unwritten rule” of presenting closed session items to the Board President for prior review and approval.

Sources tell HMG-CN that CB’s legal counsel from Alston & Bird has not been asked to be present during the closed session.

According to a former top executive with the District who requested to remain anonymous, “What does it say when this action was directed by three Directors who have pocketed over $40,000 in campaign contributions from Pacifica, with Apodaca taking cash as recently as three months ago?  There is an obvious conflict of interest that would preclude any participation in a vote by these three involving Pacifica. Changing the agenda at the last minute is bad enough, but to do so and prevent legal counsel from being present is as close to committing a crime as it gets.”

Central Basin Director Art Chacon told HMG-CN, “for as much as these three like to holler about my past driving issues, they sure have no problem ignoring protocols and sound legal advice, especially to help out their  number one campaign donor.  I have no intention of participating in anything illegal Monday.  As far as I’m concerned, the way these three all had the same idea between the first agenda posting at 11 a.m. and the amended agenda posting at 6:30 p.m., certain news media sources should be calling them out on a potential Brown Act violation, but I’m sure they won’t. Instead my 2010 auto accident will probably still be news.”

Board President Phil Hawkins said, “I can’t really predict what will be taking place Monday.  These items were Roybal, Vasquez, and Apodaca’s idea, so we’ll just have to wait and see where this is headed.”

Trail of obstruction and collaboration by local media, Roybal, Vasquez, and Apodaca

In August 2013, Hews Media Group – Community News obtained exclusive documents that detailed an orchestrated collaboration between former CB District GM Art Aguilar, former Interim GM Dave Hill, and Ernie Camacho  that showed large contracts being altered that were never approved by the Directors at CB.

HMG-CN also obtained email exchanges between Hill, Camacho, his son Michael Camacho, and Pacifica Vice President Mike Sisson dating back several years that outlined how Pacifica leveraged its political clout using Aguilar as a pawn in the agency outside of the public glare.

The documents obtained and published by HMG-CN outlined how Camacho and Aguilar interfaced via company emails displaying how the “pay to play” scheme between Aguilar, the agency, and Pacifica Services was conducted.

Recently HMG-CN obtained emails that proved Aguilar, VP at Pacifica Mike Sisson, Camacho and Pacifica employees Mike Hennessey went on lavish golf outings practically every Friday while Sisson and Hennessey were getting paid $165 and $135 per hour respectively.

This newspaper was the only media outlet to draw attention to the emails, with the LA Times, KPCC and the Whittier Daily News ignoring the story.

Both Chacon and Hawkins commented on the story, with Roybal, Apodaca, and Vasquez refusing to comment on questions sent by HMG-CN to Joe Legaspi.

HMG-CN recently obtained more than 2,500 emails from a public records request between Mike Sisson, a high-ranking Vice President at Pacifica Services, and several other people sent from his office computer system located at CB. The emails were written and exchanged during regular business hours, and many were also generated by Pacifica Services executive Scott Hennessey.

The highly racist emails, sent over a three-year period,  disparaged Muslims, Palestinians, Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, Seniors, naked woman, obese people, liberals, immigrants, Wal-Mart shoppers, rednecks, gays and lesbians.

Again, both Chacon and Hawkins commented on the stories, with Roybal, Apodaca, and Vasquez refusing to comment on questions sent by HMG-CN to Joe Legaspi.

Again this newspaper was the only media outlet to draw attention to the emails, with the LA Times, KPCC and the Whittier Daily News ignoring the story.

In January of this year, HMG-CN published an article that showed the three Directors purposely attempting to sink their own District’s case against Pacifica Services.

During the second of three Special Board meeting attended only by then-President Roybal, Apodaca, and Vasquez, the three inexplicably fired its legal counsel, Grant Burton, who has been successfully litigating the District’s case against Pacifica.

For a third time the story was ignored the LA Times,  KPCC and the Whittier Daily News.

Director 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.

Trail of large contributions from Pacifica shows conflict of interest

HMG-CN previously reported contributions affiliated with Pacifica Services to Roybal, Vasquez, and Apodaca.

Campaign reports filed with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office in Norwalk and the California Secretary of State in Sacramento reveal that a combined $45,797 has been contributed by known Pacifica sources, which include Ernie Camacho, his brother Andy Camacho, via his restaurant El Paseo Inn, MLJ Properties, owned by Ernie’s children, and Pacifica itself.

Over the years, Apodaca has received $34,000 including $10,000 in “forgiven loans”, Vasquez $6,797 and Roybal $5,000.

In addition, during Apodaca’s November 2006 reelection, he received $20,000 in contributions from Pacifica.  Apodaca has also acknowledged publicly, amid conflict of interest claims, that his longtime live-in girlfriend Caroline Medrano is a cousin of Ernie and Andy Camacho.

Roybal also reported $6,617 in un-itemized contributions, where he does not identify the source of the funding.  Those donations are currently under official investigation by the California Political Practices Commission, who is charged with enforcement on political misdeeds in the Golden State.

Adding to concerns within the water community, both Roybal and Vasquez accepted their substantial donations from Pacifica sources well after their June 5, 2012 election dates.

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to see that the ongoing actions of Roybal, Apodaca, and Vasquez make it clear that they are working against the best interests of their own agency in favor their largest financial campaign contributor, Pacifica,” Chacon said.

Hawkins also noted that internal investigations at the District have raised serious concerns about Aguilar’s involvement in illegally amending official documents related to Pacifica’s contract.

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