Former City Councilwoman Leticia Vasquez made a triumphant return to elected office Tuesday, winning election to the Division 4 seat on the Central Basin Municipal Water District Board of Directors.
Change may be coming to the Central Basin Municipal Water District with two incumbents voted out of office Tuesday.
Pico Water Board member James Roybal knocked off two-term incumbent Ed Vasquez and former Lynwood Councilwoman Leticia Vasquez defeated incumbent Rudy Montalvo of South Gate – both by a nearly 2-1 margin.
“People are pretty dissatisfied with the Central Basin Municipal Water District,” said Roybal. “I think the electorate is saying they’re tired of reading articles on what’s going on in the Central Basin.”
Directors Rudy Montalvo and Ed Vasquez lose by large margins in an election dominated by allegations of misconduct at the agency.
Biographical information can’t be confirmed about journalists with the website News Hawks Review, whose stories promoted the Central Basin Municipal Water District.
There seemed to be no doubt that Mike Adams was a productive journalist, even if his beat was a bit obscure: the Central Basin Municipal Water District.
In recent months, he churned out more than 20 stories on the water wholesaler based in southeast Los Angeles. He wrote about recycled water that kept the grass green on street medians and parks. About the computer system a college used to irrigate its landscaping. About a water-saving youth soccer field.
The only mystery, really, was Adams himself. The Times could not find evidence he exists.
Adams’ stories were published on the website News Hawks Review after Central Basin agreed to pay up to nearly $200,000 in taxpayer money to public relations consultant Ed Coghlan. Under the deal, Coghlan said he would produce promotional stories about the district that would be indexed on Google News.
The district, which sells water to cities and water companies in Southeast Los Angeles County and serves a total of more than 2 million residents, has come under criticism for the unusual arrangement.
Central Basin staffers, in recommending the agreement with Coghlan to the board of directors, said the stories would enhance the district’s image and would be written by experienced journalists.
And on paper, Adams fit that bill.
A biography on News Hawks described him as a former magazine writer and TV veteran who had a degree in construction sciences from Westminster College in Salt Lake City. But his background in journalism could not be verified, and Westminster’s registrar, Mindy Wennergren, said the school has never offered a degree in construction sciences.
News Hawks also presented a picture of Adams, showing a stoic man with a gray beard and a black cowboy hat. A reader notified The Times that the photo was a stock image used to demonstrate editing techniques on websites such as deviantart.com.
From there, the picture was traced to photographer Leroy Skalstad, who said he took the shot at a Milwaukee food bank last year and posted it to several photo-sharing websites. He said the subject of the picture is a man nicknamed “Cobra.”
The Southeast Water Coalition has requested that California State Assembly Member Ricardo Lara initiate a state audit of the Central Basin Municipal Water District. The letter cited many reasons for an audit of Central Basin MWD including information in articles by theLos Angeles Times (here and here) as well as “…political relationships, lobbying and increasing consulting expenditures” and ”Central Basin’s recycled water project, excessive water rates and less than timely budget process.”
Letter to the Honorable Ricardo Lara dated June 30, 2011:
Dear Assembly Member Lara:
On behalf of the Southeast Water Coalition (SEWC), I am submitting this letter to urge that you recommend and initiate a thorough state audit of the Central Basin Municipal Water District (CBMWD).
The Southeast Water Coalition Joint Powers was established in 1991 and has been active in preventing the contamination of the Central Groundwater Basin from migrating contaminated groundwater from the superfund sites. The SEWC membership consists of the cities of Commerce, Cerritos, Downey, Lakewood, Norwalk, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, South Gate, Vernon, and Whittier. The SEWC mission also includes advocating for responsible water resource policies that will ensure the availability of reliable, quality, and affordable water to local water purveyors. The retail water agencies serving SEWC member cities ate responsible for serving safe and reliable drinking water to a total population of 670,000 in a service area of
The Los Angeles Times’ recent series of articles have prompted community concern over Central Basin’s political relationships, lobbying and increasing consulting expenditures. As Chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the residents of the SEWC member cities look to your leadership and commitment to have the State Auditor conduct an audit of CBWMD.
At the same time that residents in all our communities are calling for additional transparency and accountability of local governments, more needs to be done to ensure that special districts, such as Central Basin, are held equally accountable for the expenditure of public funds. Unfortunately, at the present time most special districts in California continue to operate without much public scrutiny and legislative oversight.
Past city and regional efforts to have Central Basin audited by the State have proven to be very challenging and unsuccessful. Yet, SEWC member cities continue to raise many questions and concerns with regard to Central Basin’s recycled water project, excessive water rates and less than timely budget process. Should you be able to assist SEWC with this request, we would suggest the scope of the audit include a review of the following issues and practices:
- Budget and budget adoption process.
- How the District determines, evaluates and approves rates, taxes, surcharges, and any other charges it imposes.
- Propriety of current rates, taxes, surcharges and other charges relative to cost of service.
- Litigation expenses, purposes and beneﬁts of litigation.
- A review of State, Federal and local lobbying expenses including an assessment of their level and propriety.
- Expenditures for public relations including an assessment of their level and propriety.
- Contracting procedures and compliance with state laws and regulations.
- A review of the Districts’ stafﬁng levels, and director and staff compensation packages to determine whether they are comparable to other special districts.
- Recycled water program (Southeast Water Reliability Project or “SWRP”)
- Status of compliance with the State Auditor’s recommendations in the 2001 Audit Report (2001 Audit).
- Amount and source of funds spent on the project to date.
- Cost/beneﬁt analysis of the project including ﬁrm water purchase commitments.
Lastly, as elected ofﬁcials we believe that it is essential, particularly in these difﬁcult economic times, to ﬁnd solutions that save taxpayers’ money, and ensure a strong oversight of the expenditure of public funds. Without an increase in scrutiny, Central Basin will undoubtedly continue its course at the expense of all the residents in the SEWC service area.
For these reasons, the SEWC urges you to recommend and initiate a state audit of the Central Basin Municipal Water District. Should you or your staff have any questions or need additional information, please contact Mr. Jim Glancy, Chair, SBWC Administrative Entity…
Related Stories: Downey Councilman Mario Guerra Renews Call For Audit of Central Basin Municipal Water District - August 15, 2011, Downey Beat by Bethania Palma