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Control of the Board of Water District is in dispute

Photo: Idstock

The fight for political-administrative power of the Board of the CBMWD focuses on two sides; On the one hand, they accuse an assemblywoman and the mayor of Downey of being on the side of the interests of privatizing water; on the other, they accuse the new president and three more members of the Board of corruption and trying to increase the water rate.


The Assembly Local Government Committee voted 8-0 the last week of May, to approve SB 625, authored by California Senator Steven Bradford (D), authorizing the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) to dissolve the board of directors and take control of the Central Basin Municipal Water District (CBMWD), which would put the agency under receivership.

The bill would require CBMWD “to surrender all public resources to the WRD”, as well as cancel the November 3, 2020, election.

A lawsuit filed by 22 cities accuses the agency of several illegal acts including; not having sworn in a vacant board member, failing to impose a crucial annual charge and mishandling the District’s finances.


In January of this year, a new president and vice president of the Board had to be elected by the members, which did not happen due to the constant breaking of the quorum by some members, most notably the then president, Robert Apodaca, and John Oskui, who currently holds a position in Downey City Hall.

At a special meeting held on January 30, 2020, a motion was voted for installing Leticia Vasquez as the new president of the Board.  This was was achieved with four votes, -herself, Martha Camacho, Arturo Chacon, and Phillip Hawkins,- but only six members of the Board were present in the room.

John Oskui es directivo de la Junta del CB y trabaja en el Ayuntamiento de Downey, que a su vez es cliente del CBMWD. Photo: Carlos Casillas

García´s Version  

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, one of the Co-Authors of a bill that would place CB into receivership, and Oskoui, an appointed Director who is also the assistant City Manager for Downey, accuse Vasquez and Camacho of workplace harassment and being the main promoters of the increase in the water rate.

Let people review public documents… the city of Downey and I, are fighting against the increase of $ 6.00 dollars in water. I think it should be a maximum of three dollars [$3],” said the assemblywoman.

García continues: “People don’t have to believe me; there are documents and videos so that all of you can see the four members of the board -Vasquez, Camacho, Chacon, and Hawkins-, who ‘pushed’ the increase to six dollars [$6].”

Three years ago the Board started with five elected and three appointed members, which in 2022 will be changed to four elected and three appointed members:

Be it seven or eight people, the law says that it takes five votes to have a quorum and they can elect the manager and the president of the agency,” details Cristina.

For a time things worked in CB, but now we see how there is a political fight for power and this system no longer works. We would have better heeded the audit recommendation in appointing all the members of the Board of Directors!” says Cristina García.

There are two ways to solve the conflict,” García warns; “the first is the court’s final decision, approximately in July, of the lawsuit of 22 cities against the CB or to give the chair to the eight designated, -representative of Santa Fe Springs,- who is already elected, to respect the vote of the Board of Directors.” 

El edificio del CBMWD fue puesto a la venta. Photo: Courtesy

Leticia’s Version 

Leticia Vásquez, the new president of the Board, and Martha Camacho, director of division 1 that among other cities represents Downey, accuse Cristina García, John Oskui, and Mayor of Downey, Blanca Pacheco, of being behind the interests of companies to privatize water.

When reached for comment regarding the accusation by Cristina Garcia, that Leticia Vazquez, along with three other board members are behind the rate increase, Vazquez avoided the question and only answered:

What happens here is that they want to remove the representatives of the community to choose their own representatives… it is that Cristina García has been bought by private water companies to whom she does the dirty work.”

She also commented: “Three years ago Cristina García carried out the AB 1794 initiative, so that our Board of Directors can impose representatives of private companies, which are: Liberty Utilities, San Gabriel Water Company, Golden State Water, and the city of Downey, which are not chosen by the community like us”.

It is the same model they did a year and a half ago with the public agency Sativa Water in Compton, where they passed a law to approve the management of the agency to a private company”.

This is how Cristina Garcia and Blanca Pacheco, along with private agencies, now want to privatize the CB.” she summarized.

Vasquez affirms that 60 water wells that are currently contaminated have to be cleaned: “The contaminated wells are located throughout the 24 cities within the CB area and are managed by companies that are trying to pass this law (SB 625).”

Finally, when we asked her why they elected a president with only four votes if five are required, she replied: “When the agency code is in conflict with the state code, the state code is the one that trumps that of the CB, as stipulated by the agency’s own code.” 

The bill is coauthors by Garcia, Anthony Rendon, Ian Calderon, Reggie Sawyer, Wendy Carrillo, Ed Chau, Mike Gipson, Sydney Kamlager, and Miguel Santiago.