Central Basin Water board member Art Chacon and general manager Tony Perez under fire (updated)

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Update 1:42 p.m.: Spurred by a KPCC investigation, a board member of the Central Basin Municipal Water District says she will call on fellow board member Art Chacon to resign.

Central Basin board member Leticia Vasquez scheduled a news conference before the Central Basin board meeting, whose agenda includes the following item: "Discussion and Possible Censure of Director Art Chacon." 

Central Basin board member Bob Apodaca told KPCC that he would support a censure of Chacon, but that he does not believe the board has the right to force Chacon to resign.

Apodaca — a 16-year veteran of the board — had harsh words for Central Basin General Manager Tony Perez, vowing, "we'll ask [Perez] to resign, or we'll fire him for absolute cause."

The agenda for Thursday's meeting includes several items for discussion in closed session, including a performance evaluation of the general manager, a discussion regarding a public employee "Discipline/Dismissal/Release," and discussion of the appointment of an interim general manager. 

Apodaca called Perez "the instigator in all of this to protect Mr. Chacon."

Perez "reimbursed Mr. Chacon without the board's knowledge," said Apodaca, referring to the decision to pay Chacon's $16,000 legal settlement. 

Apodaca said he was unaware of the lawsuit payout or the workers compensation payments until he heard KPCC's March 4 report.

He also criticized the decision to continue Chacon's monthly car allowance, since he does not have a valid driver's license. Central Basin's car allowance and reimbursement policies are also on the agenda for discussion at Thursday's board meeting.

Perez had no comment on his possible firing. 

Board members Phillip Hawkins and James Roybal did not return calls seeking comment.

10:41 a.m.: KPCC report spurs call for Art Chacon's resignation from Central Basin board

Central Basin board member Leticia Vasquez announced that she will hold a news conference at Central Basin headquarters Thursday to call on Chacon to step down. She will be joined by Cudahy Vice Mayor Chris Garcia and Bell City Councilman Nestor Valencia, along with "other southeast Los Angeles County elected officials," according to a press release.

Bell and Cudahy are two of the 24 cities served by Central Basin. 

In calling for Chacon's resignation, Vasquez cited the facts uncovered in KPCC's March 4 report about Central Basin's handling of a 2010 car accident that the California Highway Patrol said was caused by Chacon's talking on a cell phone and driving too fast.

Chacon had claimed that he was on a work-related trip at the time of the accident, but Central Basin's insurance authority, the  California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority (ACWA/JPIA), concluded that the trip had nothing to do with Chacon's duties.  

RELATED: What happened to the $2.7m in a Central Basin trust fund?

While trying to get the ACWA/JPIA to reverse its position, Central Basin paid a $16,000 legal settlement arising from a lawsuit filed against Chacon by a driver who was injured when Chacon crashed into his car during the 2010 incident.

In addition, Chacon received $63,000 in workers compensation payments, in spite of the ACWA/JPIA's determination that his accident was not work related.

Vasquez will also call on the L.A. County district attorney to investigate the incident, according to the press release.

The Central Basin board has been the scene of political infighting and intrigue for a number of years. Vasquez and Chacon have repeatedly clashed over a variety of issues.

Attempts to reach Chacon for comment were unsuccessful. 

 

 

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