[env-trinity] FBI Looking At Ron Calderon's Water Legislation After Raiding Offices

Joshua Allen trinityjosh at gmail.com
Thu Jun 6 11:03:54 PDT 2013


FBI Looking At Ron Calderon's Water Legislation After Raiding Offices
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/06/fbi-ron-calderon_n_3395631.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

By DON THOMPSON and TAMI ABDOLLAH 06/06/13 04:17 AM ET EDT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The FBI investigation of state Sen. Ron Calderon
involves legislation he introduced for a Los Angeles-area water district
that uses his brother as a consultant, according to two people questioned
by federal agents.

The FBI hasn't disclosed any details on the investigation of the Democrat
whose Sacramento offices were raided late Tuesday. However, two people told
The Associated Press on Wednesday they were questioned by the FBI about the
legislation and Calderon's brother Tom's connections with the Central Basin
Municipal Water District.

Michael Franchek, former vice president of EcoGreen Services, said agents
interviewed him twice and wanted to know about a contract his water
conservation consulting company unsuccessfully sought from the city of
Maywood. The contract went to a firm for which Tom Calderon served as
president.

Maywood is part of the Central Basin district, which paid Tom Calderon a
consulting fee of $11,000 per month.

Meanwhile, a Los Angeles-area elected official said agents asked him about
legislation written by Ron Calderon on behalf of Central Basin. The
official also said agents wanted to know about four or five contracts
awarded in the last several years to companies connected to Tom Calderon.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of concern the FBI
would be upset by public comments about an ongoing investigation.

Ron Calderon hasn't commented on the investigation. His attorney, Mark
Geragos, has denied any wrongdoing and called the investigation a witch
hunt.

The Calderons are part of a powerful Southern California political family.
Tom and another brother, Charles, both were assemblymen. Charles' son, Ian,
was elected to the Assembly last year.

Ron Calderon, a moderate, business-friendly Democrat from Montebello who
also served in the Assembly before being elected to the Senate, was
investigated by the state's political watchdog agency in 2009 for his
campaign expenditures. The Fair Political Practices Commission closed its
investigation without sanctions.

In the last two years, Calderon first introduced a bill and then tried
unsuccessfully to block another bill giving authority over groundwater to a
neighboring district of the Central Basin.

Local officials have complained for years that the Central Basin has raised
water rates and failed to provide transparency about its own spending.

U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., said in a statement Wednesday that
cities had requested assistance from her office and she's hopeful
communities now are "finally able to get answers to the questions they have
had for so long."

In 2009, she asked state auditors to review the Central Basin district's
operations. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she blamed Ron
Calderon for her audit request going nowhere.

"This is ratepayer money," she said. "It's not the Central Basin's money."

Joseph Legaspi, a spokesman for Central Basin, said he wasn't authorized to
respond to allegations about the agency's operations.

"I've got to tell you, we have not been contacted by any of the authorities
involved in this case," Legaspi said. He said if they do contact Central
Basin, "we're certainly going to cooperate."

Central Basin hired an outside law firm last year to look into allegations
of improper conduct and conflict of interest in awarding water contracts,
including allegations involving Tom Calderon. Its 160-page report, reviewed
by the AP, said no evidence was found to substantiate the allegations.

Downey Mayor Mario Guerra testified before the Joint Legislative Audit
Committee last year that Central Basin was not being properly managed and
it was impacting the city's water rates. The committee instead called for
an audit that included Downey's Department of Public Works, Guerra said.

That audit was sought by then-Assemblyman and now Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell
Gardens, who was chairman of the committee. He now is vice chairman of the
audit committee and chairman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus,
of which Calderon is a former leader.

Calderon's fellow lawmakers have said little about the investigation.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said that if asked, lawmakers
will cooperate with the FBI.

"We've got nothing to hide," the Sacramento Democrat said. "This is not
going to be a distraction. It's unfortunate, the process will play itself
out, and we will go from there."

Calderon can remain in office while the investigation continues, and even
if charges are filed. For instance, Sen. Rod Wright, a Democrat from
Inglewood, has continued to serve while he awaits trial on eight felony
counts of voter fraud and perjury alleging he lived outside his legislative
district.

The state Constitution does provide, however, that members may be expelled
by a two-thirds vote by other members.

Calderon has been weighing a bid for state controller next year when he is
forced out of the Senate by term limits. Before Tuesday's raid, the
prospects for such a bid looked brighter after state Treasurer Bill Lockyer
announced this week that he would retire rather than seek the controller's
job.

Calderon's account for a 2014 campaign has collected nearly $194,000 since
2011 but had just $12,195 in the bank at the end of 2012, according to
reports filed with the secretary of state. He reported having just $370 in
his Senate officeholder account at the end of the year after spending more
than $60,000.

Expenses from Calderon's officeholder account include seven nights at the
Wailea Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel in Maui and a car rental there, totaling
more than $2,000, as well as charges for rooms at the MGM Grand and
Cosmopolitan hotels for different conferences in Las Vegas, and a staff
retreat at the upscale Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena. There is also
a charge of $114.85 for a meeting at Hooters, in addition to hundreds of
dollars for meetings at various Sacramento restaurants such as Morton's The
Steakhouse.

___

Tami Abdollah reported from Los Angeles and can be reached at . Associated
Press writers Juliet Williams and Laura Olson in Sacramento also
contributed to this report.http://www.twitter.com/latams
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