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Central Basin Director Leticia Vasquez Slammed by Attorneys Prior to Unlawful and Invalid Vote on Whistleblower Lawsuit

Vote was to waive attorney-client privilege, hearing to allow or dismiss $2.7 million whistleblower lawsuit scheduled for tomorrow.

By Brian Hews and Randy Economy

HMG-CN has exclusively obtained a legal opinion written by Paul Chan of the Los Angeles law firm of Bird-Marella, slamming CB Director Leticia Vasquez’ October 9, 2014 vote to waive attorney-client privilege so the whistleblower lawsuit filed in 2013 can go forward.

Chan was hired as legal counsel for Buchalter-Nemer, one of the defendants named in the lawsuit.

Among other things, the opinion clearly warned Vasquez that she was financially conflicted, and should she or any of the ‘legacy’ Board members (Bob Apodaca, Phil Hawkins or Art Chacon) take a vote to waive privilege, they would be liable.

Chan said in the opinion, “We write to advise you that if the current board votes to waive the attorney-client privilege it is our view that such a waiver would be ineffective and that Leticia Vasquez’ participation in such a vote would violate California law.”

Chan went on to say, “Miss Vasquez has a direct personal and financial interest in advocating and voting for the district to waive its attorney-client privilege and is in violation of California Government Code 87100 which states, “no public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making, or in any way attempt to use  her official position to influence a governmental decision in which  she knows or has reason to know she has a financial interest”

In spite of the letter, on October 9th 2014 the Vasquez-orchestrated Special Meeting to vote on the waiver of attorney-client privilege relating to the qui tam took place and on a 3-0 vote, with Director’s Hawkins and Chacon leaving the room calling the vote illegal, the motion passed.

Vasquez stands to make over $2-million if she prevails, but will also be open to several defamation and compensatory lawsuits if she loses.

Vasquez had filed the lawsuit in August 2013, alleging a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by former CBMWD law firms Buchalter-Nemer, Sedgwick, lawyers Doug Wance and Curtis Parvin, former CBMWD General Manager Art Aguilar, and “50-does” regarding the formation of a Trust Fund to finance the production of an Environmental Impact Report.

On September 15th 2014, Judge Bryant-Deason heard arguments made by the defendants to dismiss the lawsuit due to, among other things, conflicts arising because the law firms claim they could not reasonably defend themselves due to the attorney-client relationship the firms had with the District.

Judge Bryant-Deason indicated that she found the defendants’ arguments persuasive and ordered Vasquez to obtain a waiver of the attorney-client privilege by the District or risk having her qui tam suit dismissed.

Bryant-Deason gave Vasquez 30-days to obtain the waiver and scheduled a hearing for October 14th, 2014.

It was after the hearing that Vasquez orchestrated the Oct. 9 meeting.

At the meeting, the District’s General Counsel Arnold Alvarez-Glasman and special counsel Arent Fox made forceful presentations that Director Vasquez had a financial stake in the vote and was therefore legally conflicted from participating.

At the time, Vasquez was suspected of amending her complaint, removing the legacy directors Apodaca and Roybal as defendants as part of a deal to obtain Apodaca’s vote to waive privilege.

Chan’s opinion was clear, “…if such board member(s) do so in order to avoid being named as defendants in Ms. Vasquez’s lawsuit, that too would invalidate the current Board’s vote, and potentially subject those individual board members to liability under California law.”

Despite these warnings, Vasquez and her voting partners Bob Apodaca and Jim Roybal ignored legal counsel’s advice and voted to waive the privilege.

At the October 14th hearing, attorneys for defendants Buchalter Nemer and Sedgwick followed through and filed supplemental briefs indicating that the vote to waive privilege was illegal and therefore should be invalidated.

Judge Bryant-Deason was unavailable that day, and the substituting judge, Judge Joseph Kalin scheduled to continue the hearing on October 16th.

Judge Bryant-Deason subsequently rescheduled the hearing to October 29th to further study the defendants’ arguments that the vote was illegal due to Vasquez’s clear conflict of interest.

Norwalk Planning Commissioner Scott Collins commented, “The arrogance of these three is beyond belief. To openly break the law in public session in spite of warnings by three lawyers, just to prolong Vasquez’ personal game of “who wants to be a millionaire” defies imagination.”

Collins went on to say, “It is incomprehensible to think that the judge could possibly allow this lawsuit to continue, ignoring Vasquez’s clear conflict of interest. It’s just a matter of time before the D.A. picks Vasquez up on any number of criminal violations, or Vasquez gets recalled. Frankly if the judge ignores Vasquez’s conflict and allows this case to continue, racking up additional needless legal bills for the District, I think the judge needs to be recalled too.”

The District has spent over $270,000.00 as of June 2014 on qui tam related legal fees.

Chan’s opinion ended with an ominous note, “such a unlawful an invalid vote would require our current clients to bear the burden of the expense of protecting the District’s attorney- client privilege and we would seek indemnification from the District for all fees associated with that litigation,” thus indicating that the expense to Central Basin would rise well above the $270,000 already spent.

CBMWD Director Art Chacon stated “I don’t know what Apodaca got for selling his vote and also breaking the law, but it must be huge given that Vasquez is also suing Apodaca’s buddy Tom Calderon and his benefactor Ernie Camacho. Mark my words that as soon as privilege is waived, the suit will be amended to include Apodaca as a defendant. Follow the money given to contractors hired between now and the election, because that’s how Apodaca is financing his reelection campaign.”

Bob Apodaca was formerly employed by Senator Ron Calderon and voted to hire Senator Calderon’s brother Tom as a consultant for Central Basin. Ron and Tom Calderon were both indicted in February of this year on multiple federal criminal charges including money laundering, bribery and tax fraud. Ernie Camacho is president of Pacifica Services Inc., an engineering firm that has received millions from CBMWD in no-bid contracts, and whose cousin is married to Bob Apodaca.

Directors Apodaca, Vasquez and Roybal did not return calls for comment.








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