Partial first page of Speaker Rendon’s letter.
BY BRIAN HEWS • September 10, 2020
In a questionable last ditch effort to pass SB 625, the bill that would have put Central Basin Municipal Water into receivership, disenfranchised over 2 million voters, and retained a management base of disgruntled employees who were illegally fighting for the bill to pass, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon disrespected California Senate President pro tempore Tony Atkins by going around Atkins and sending a letter to Senate Governance and Finance Chair Mike McGuire urging him to move the bill for concurrence.
SB 625 died in McGuire’s committee at midnight on August 31.
“I have never seen that in my thirty years as a politician,” said one former Assemblyman who was expert at moving bills through the legislature, “that is really disrespectful.”
The final move was a culmination of several questionable maneuvers perpetrated by Rendon to pass the bill that was co-authored by noted Central Basin critic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia.
The letter itself was full of misleading statements meant to push McGuire into making a decision to move the bill forward.
In his letter, Rendon not only dissed Atkins, but he also falsely accused State Sen. Bob Archuleta (D-Norwalk) of misleading lawmakers when Archuleta wrote his letter to McGuire.
Rendon wrote to McGuire, “On July 24, Archuleta sent you a letter purporting to describe conditions at Central Basin and urging your opposition to SB 625. The letter calls the bill ‘highly unusual and inappropriate.’ The letter, however, fails to describe the highly unusual and inappropriate activities that four district directors have pursued in pushing the agency to the brink of collapse.”
The alleged inappropriate actions at CB have been well-documented by HMG-CN in the past few months.
On one side was the directors that were appointed by CB competitors under Garcia’s 2016 AB 1794, which Rendon’s attorney Alf Brandt fought hard to pass.
He was fighting hard to pass AB 625 also, along with his brother Norris Brandt when HMG-CN exclusively learned that Norris had secretly worked for CB for over three years, suddenly resigning in February of this year.
Asm. Cristina Garcia with Speaker Rendon’s attorney Alf Brandt, this picture was taken after Garcia’s 2016 AB 1794 passed.
Two directors have resigned; Director Dan Arrighi resigned during the “highly unusual and inappropriate activities” Rendon cited, and just last year, Frank Heldman resigned accused of placing his company in front of CB during negotiations to take over Sativa Water.
Since January of this year, the factions have fought over who was president when Leticia Vasquez was voted in on a rotation basis.
A lawsuit was filed to end the conflict but in the meantime, the remaining Garcia directors held up all business at the agency while also recruiting CB employees to sabotage the infrastructure.
The lawsuit culminated in a very strange decision from the judge, ruling that five was a majority on the board of eight seats, yet placing Vasquez as president when only four directors voted for her.
After the ruling, the Garcia directors continued to hold up business while the employees locked the elected directors out of the building.
Finally, elected CB Director Bob Apodaca relinquished his battle and began voting with the other four elected directors.
The agency passed its budget, hired a GM and legal counsel, and eliminated all but five positions; the agency went from a nearly $3 million loss to $140,000 in profit for ’20-’21.
That was August 18, Rendon’s letter was dated August 19.
In his letter Rendon also cited “widespread support” of AB 625 although that was a very questionable assertion.
He included two water associations, one was the Southeast Water Coalition which includes the cities of Commerce, Cerritos, Downey, Lakewood, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Southgate, Vernon, and Whittier.
HMG-CN emailed Cerritos, Commerce, and Norwalk and found the respective City Councils had not expressed support either way.
Rendon also included the Central Basin Water Association as a supporter; an exclusive HMG-CN investigation in November 2019 found that the association failed to report lobbying activity on its financial documents, hiding the fact the association was actively lobbying to pass Garcia’s AB 1794.
Former appointed CB Directors Mark Grajeda, along with Dan Arrighi, and Frank Heldman, both of whom resigned from CB, were listed as board members with Grajeda, one of the first appointees under AB 1794, listed as president and Heldman as a director.
Rendon included the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, but when HMG-CN contacted Supervisor Janice Hahn, she knew nothing about it.
Rendon went on with his questionable statements writing, “two appointed directors have resigned tired of the attacks [by the elected boardmembers].”
The two who resigned were Frank Heldman and Dan Arrighi, the former caught selling for his own company while in negotiations for CB, the latter for a threatened incompatible office charge.
On the last page, Rendon turned up the rhetoric.
Rendon defended former employee Andrew Hamilton, who led the shutdown of the agency, and who was recalled as a Lake Forest City Councilman in 2018, while undermining the authority of new CB GM Alex Rojas.
He also leveled a baseless accusation that Archuleta was “dividing our Los Angeles communities” by trying to kill the bill.
Rendon finished, “on behalf of the people of the Southeast and nearly all of the elected officials we have elected, I urge you to support the Senate taking up and concurring Assembly amendments to SB 625.”
Texts into Speaker Rendon went unreturned.
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