Capitol Alert

LA-area water district official agrees to $30,000 FPPC fine

The Central Basin Municipal Water District office in Commerce, Calif., seen here in this undated photo. Photo by Central Basin MWD
The Central Basin Municipal Water District office in Commerce, Calif., seen here in this undated photo. Photo by Central Basin MWD Central Basin MWD

The former manager of a Southern California water district with ties to the Calderon brothers – who are under criminal indictment – has agreed to pay a $30,000 fine for violating conflict-of-interest laws in awarding lucrative contracts.

Arthur J. Aguilar, who was the general manager of the Central Basin Municipal Water District from 2006 to 2012, routinely accepted rounds of golf, food, drinks and party invitations from an engineering company called Pacifica Services that did business with the district, according to a proposed settlement he reached with the Fair Political Practices Commission. Aguilar accepted about $3,500 worth of gifts from the company during his last four years at the water district, the agreement says, but did not report most of them on his annual statements of economic interests.

“Disclosure of economic interests is important to provide transparency and prevent conflicts of interest,” the settlement says.

“By not disclosing those gifts he concealed his conflict of interest in recommendations he made to the board that led to over $6 million in contracts being awarded to the source of the undisclosed gifts.”

The Central Basin Municipal Water District, which provides water to communities in southeast Los Angeles County, has garnered attention in recent years as federal prosecutors investigated former Sen. Ron Calderon and his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon. Tom Calderon worked as a consultant to the water district, making nearly $140,000 a year. The FBI served a subpoena on the water district in June 2013, the same month the FBI raided Ron Calderon’s office in the state Capitol.

Yet when a a federal grand jury indicted the brothers in February 2014, the charges did not allege any crimes involving the Central Basin water district. The indictment accuses Ron Calderon of taking bribes from a hospital executive and an undercover FBI agent who posed as a movie studio owner, and accuses Tom Calderon of laundering money through a sham nonprofit organization. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Aguilar created the conflict of interest, the settlement says, by accepting gifts of golf fees, meals and parties worth more than the law allows for public officials. The FPPC agreement describes a pattern between 2009 and 2012 in which Aguilar golfed and dined with Pacifica executives several times a year, then steered more business toward the company by asking the board to extend its contract. After Aguilar retired, the water district sued Pacifica, then settled the suit last year.

The FPPC meets Jan. 15 to vote on the proposed fine against Aguilar.

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.