Gail Fry | IE Voice
Recently unsealed federal plea agreements reveal the ratepayers of West Valley Water District (WVWD) had unknowingly become embroiled in a corrupt “quid pro quo” plot that originated in the City of Baldwin Park, where then Council Member Ricardo Pacheco agreed to assist WVWD President Dr. Michael Taylor with his campaign for the water board and Pacheco securing the job as assistant general manager at the water district.
In December 2017, newly elected WVWD board member Michael Taylor and late WVWD board member Dr. Clifford Young, Sr., celebrated Taylor’s election win at a December 7, 2017, political event camouflaged as a WVWD Christmas Party to allow Young to request reimbursement from the water agency for its costs.
After a complaint was filed in mid-September 2018 by the late Don Griggs on behalf of the WVWD Ratepayers Association, aided by reporting by Black Voice News/IE Voice, the water district engaged the law firm Milon Pluas LLP to investigate. The probe concluded that the allegations against C. Young were valid.
At that time, Griggs’ words, speaking on behalf of Hardy Brown Sr., Publisher Emeritus, The IE Voice and Black Voice News, provided insight into what has since been revealed by several unsealed federal criminal indictments – that ‘pay to play’ was happening at WVWD.
Brown observed how WVWD appointments to its upper management appeared to be based on who you knew, not the best qualified, and that they were actually political appointments, including those of former general manager Robert Pacheco, public affairs manager Naseem Farooqi, assistant general manager Jeremiah Brosowske, then replaced by Logan Olds.
WVWD incurred exorbitant legal fees and settlements
Griggs complained of the increasing legal costs incurred by WVWD stemming from their bad employment decisions. By the time this ‘pay to play’ era was over, eight lawsuits had been filed against WVWD by its employees, including former general managers Matthew Litchfield and Clarence Mansell; former WVWD executive board secretary Shanee Smith; former chief financial officers Marie Ricci and Naisha Davis; former board secretary Patricia Romero; former water resources manager, Nadia Loukeh, and former asset manager Diana Gunn.
As of February 2022, WVWD’s General Counsel Robert Tafoya estimated the total amount paid out in settlements to various former employees was about $900,000.
Plea agreements tell full story
Federal court documents in a criminal bribery case unsealed on October 7 reveal WVWD’s General Counsel Robert Tafoya, named as “Person 1” in the plea agreement of former San Bernardino County Planning Commissioner Gabriel Chavez where Chavez pled guilty to his involvement in delivering a bribe to Pacheco in exchange for approval of city marijuana permits.
Chavez’ plea agreement reveals at least 17 names of involved public officials, businesses and individuals.
A separate federal plea agreement entered into by Pacheco reveals several pay-to-play schemes where he (Pacheco) demanded multiple bribes from a police officer, land developers, and business persons in exchange for his support of business before the Baldwin Park City Council and political campaigns he supported.
Pacheco accepted bribes from a police officer to support the City Police Association’s contract valued at $4.4 million over a 3-year period with the City of Baldwin Park as well as bribes from marijuana companies for his support of marijuana development licenses.
Another pay-to-play scheme orchestrated by Pacheco, according to the plea agreement, was his ability to raise funds to support political campaigns, including the eventually ousted City of Baldwin Park’s Police Chief Michael Taylor’s campaign to become an elected member of the WVWD board. In exchange, Taylor was to secure a job for Pacheco at WVWD.
At a subsequent date, Taylor added one more condition to his agreement to support Pacheco in securing a job at WVWD, a demand that Pacheco – as a City of Baldwin Park City Council Member – vote in favor of the $4.4 million City Police Association’s contract.
Pacheco’s plea agreement revealed he had control of several political action committees, to which he directed monetary contributions, and controlled which political campaigns were to receive funds.
It was also revealed that Taylor enlisted WVWD Board Member C. Young’s assistance to further support his (Taylor’s) effort to secure a job for Pacheco at WVWD, where the three agreed that if Pacheco assisted Taylor, and C. Young get elected, they would in turn help Pacheco.
Pacheco works his will for compensation at WVWD
In a February 2022, interview with The IE Voice/Black Voice News, Taylor shared that he and Young were neighbors and were one-time friends and at some point found themselves at odds over the district.
On March 29, 2019, WVWD appointed Pacheco as assistant general manager and chief financial officer.
Pacheco’s federal criminal plea agreement reveals text messages between him and Taylor where he demands to be made a second assistant general manager, and for compensation of $180,000 plus benefits. In response, Taylor responded, “Working on it.”
Pacheco eventually negotiated an annual salary of $189,592 and the use of a water district vehicle. The board voted 4 to 0 in favor of the contract.
On December 13, 2018, FBI special agents executed a search warrant on Pacheco’s residence and vehicle. WVWD placed Pacheco on six months paid leave.
In November of 2019, Pacheco’s employment with WVWD was terminated.
Who is Pacheco?
Pacheco holds an engineering degree from California State University, Los Angeles. He has worked as Director of Public Works for the city of South Gate, Calif., associate engineer for Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and a project manager for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Pacheco is in his fifth term as a councilman in Baldwin Park, where he has been instrumental in drawing redevelopment to the city.
A source advised Black Voice News and IE Voice that Taylor left Rialto and moved to Arkansas in July 2021. The board moved to replace him with Dan Jenkins.
For a complete picture of what occurred at WVWD during this era see Retrospective: West Valley Water District-A Chronology of Corruption, Cronyism, Malfeasance and Mismanagement.