Central Basin General Manager Alex Rojas has found himself on the receiving end of verbal attacks of two of the water agencies board members, which appear to derive from an investigation surrounding suspicious invoices submitted for work related to SB 625.
The agency fought off receivership by trimming positions and hiring Rojas to stabilize the finances, which Rojas says has been effectively achieved. Directors Leticia Vasquez Wilson and Martha Camacho-Rodriguez voted against a raise for Rojas at the board’s August 23 meeting, claiming he didn’t deserve it.
“Alex Rojas does not deserve a raise on the back our ratepayers. He’s unqualified and does not meet the general requirements according to Central Basin’s Admin Code,” said Vasquez. This is in stark contrast to comments she made to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune when Rojas was first hired.
“I believe the Central Basin Municipal Water District is on the right track to move the agency forward in a positive direction. The Board united to pass a balanced budget, hire a seasoned and well experienced general manager and law firm. Obviously, there are a few disgruntled employees dissatisfied with the Board’s decision to balance its budget who choose to use your newspaper to spread lies,” she stated. “Nevertheless, we must move forward with the business and mission of the District, which is to continue delivering clean, reliable and most importantly affordable water to our region.”
Rojas tells 2UrbanGirls the district is moving forward and have a firm handle on the financials.
“We reduced the cost of imported water for our customers by 14% (Vasquez and Camacho voted no on that item). We also lowered fixed costs by over $300,000 just for next year so we are doing a good job of making water more affordable. This “raise” was not a performance based amendment,” explained Rojas. “The board looked at surrounding GM compensation and saw that I was significantly below the average for a district this size so they wanted to try and address it (which I appreciate). Also because we ended the year with nearly $20M in operating cash and reserves the board felt that we were in a position to make the adjustment.”
Camacho and Vasquez also had issues with Rojas’ employment contract, with Vasquez calling it a “gift of public funds”, and also took issue with the termination clause which calls for a “super majority” to vote in favor of termination.
“The item about the termination clause was actually approved by the board in 2016 based on the state auditors report/recommendation. So my contract was just amended to match the current administrative code and make up of the board (7-8 instead of 4-5),” said Rojas. “It’ll change again when we reduce our board to seven members (6-7), but that was done before my time.”
In November 2020, Los Cerritos News published emails sent to Rojas where consultant Dallas Fowler submitted an invoice for $19,600 for 2work she claimed to have performed related to SB 625. The article noted the work was not approved by the board, nor did any signed contracts exist.
When Rojas asked for a copy of the contract, Fowler responded “it was a labor of love”. On November 13, 2020, Fowler appeared at the Central Basin board meeting demanding payment. She provided a letter admitting there was no signed contract, because she performed “emergency services” under a verbal agreement, despite SB 625 being on the legislature for an entire year before she was allegedly brought on.
In her letter Fowler wrote, “I had a verbal agreement with Central Basin directors and the general manager to perform emergency services for SB625. I was contacted by CB Directors Vasquez and Camacho-Rodriguez and (former CB GM) Panilla who told me I would be compensated later.”
Fowler continued, “I shall not suffer further damages, it was made clear to me that I would be compensated for my services included in this email and the attached supporting documentation.
Fowler then attempted to allege the agency was possibly “discriminating against minority women business enterprises”.
Rojas explained he believes the attacks from Camacho and Vasquez are directly related to the investigation that ensued over the invoices.
“This is just retaliation for the fraudulent invoices. They told me they would “come after me” if I didn’t get them their money. But I’ve got to do the right thing,” said Rojas.
Should ratepayers/taxpayers money be used to pay verbal contracts?