Can’t we all just get along?

Central Basin and West Basin were happily married for 16 years. And then came the bitter divorce in 2006, followed by two lawsuits and likely the squandernig of thousands of rate payers dollars.

Of course, neither agency had that number at their fingertips when I asked them how much it cost them to litigate over the past two years. At West Bast, General Manager Rich Nagel assured that the costs were “minimal,” whatever that means. And at Central Basin, the costs are significant enough that they are asking West Basin to pay for attorney’s fees.

Here is the most recent in their break-up:

Water districts remain at odds
By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 10/29/2008 11:44:55 PM PDT

COMMERCE – A court order last week still won’t bring an end to a bitter divorce between two water districts that serve nearly half of Los Angeles County.

The West Basin and Central Basin municipal water districts have waged war against one another after the two split joint operations more than two years ago, this time disagreeing over how much each should pay for employee retirement expenses.

Judge Robert Heff on Oct.20 ruled that West Basin Municipal breached a settlement agreement with its former business partner, Central Basin Municipal Water District.

Central Basin officials said West Basin owes their district $1.09 million in employee retirement expenses.

But West Basin said that number is about $350,000 too high.

“We believe the information provided by Central Basin to the court was inaccurate,” said West Basin General Manager Richard Nagel. “We’ve been discussing with the board how to correct that step.”

After the judge ruled, Central Basin said it wants legal fees from West Basin.

Nagel said the West Basin’s board will have to decide whether to appeal.

West Basin and Central Basin from 1990 to 2006 carried out joint operations from a building in Commerce.

Just before the partnership ended in 2006, West Basin filed a lawsuit against Central Basin because the two parties could not agree what they owed one another, such as employee liabilities.

West Basin provides water to the



western portion of Los Angeles County, from as far north as Beverly Hills to as far south as Rancho Palos Verdes, and as far west from Hermosa Beach to as far east as Carson.
Central Basin serves areas from Lakewood to Montebello, Willowbrook to La Habra Heights, including Pico Rivera, Monterey Park and Whittier.

Central Basin General Manager Art Aguilar said he hoped the recent court judgement would put an end to the ongoing legal battles with West Basin.

If fights continue, Aguilar places the blame on West Basin.

“To continue this is a waste of rate payers money,” Aguilar said.

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2477

Say goodbye to free street parking in West Covina

Have questions about the proposed parking ordinance that West Covina might impose? Well, the city prepared this on posted it on its Web site.

The parking ordinance discussion will resume on Tuesday, where the City Council will consider adopting the fee schedule as well as put its final stamp of approval on the language of the ordinance, which was first passed earlier this month.

City officials emphasized that this ordinance is designed to improve safety and remove blight, and that it is not a revenue producer. Officials also said that they have been receiving dozens of calls from residents over the past month regarding the ordinance. Some calls have been complaints, others have supported the ordinance, and others wondering where they should pay. (Also, there’s been a flier circulating out there in opposition to the flier. Has anyone seen it or can you email the flier to me at

According to the city, the proposal includes the following:

1. For residents and guests that need to park on the street for one night, single night permits would be available from automatic permit machines that would be located at secured locations, such as fire stations.

2. Annual overnight parking permits will be available to single-family and multi-family type complexes. However, residents must demonstrate there is insufficient on-site parking and that all vehicles are registered to the property.

3. Annual permits will not be issued for recreational vehicles. Recreational vehicle owners can purchase single night permits to load and unload.

Just to re-emphasize, the public hearing on Tuesday will be about how much to charge for the permits and the parking violations. The meeting, on Election Day, begins at 7 p.m.

Prop 8: Can people agree to disagree?

Covering Proposition 8 – the proposition hoping to place an amendment in California’s Constitution making marriage exclusively between a man and a woman – one thing is very clear: people are passionate about it.

Both sides have strong feelings of support for their cause, which leads to vigorous discussions and debate on the subject of gay marriage. The problem is, since it is such a contentious issue, some are wondering if it is truly possible to have open, progressive discussion concerning the subject.

From all of the people I talked to concerning Prop 8 for stories, while having extreme differences, seemed to agree on one thing. The proposition’s public debate hasn’t been a healthy one.

Take a look at the comments on the stories on the Tribune’s website. Each story on Prop 8 is met with hoards of comments that sling mud back and forth, often filled with personal attacks or ugly words.

“It is causing a major divide among the people of California and it is, unfortunately, doing that. It is going to cause more problems within the society,” said Shawn Tanuvasa, the director of the Institute of Religion for a local chapter of the Church of Later Day Saints. .

“I don’t think the campaign has been structured right. There is a lot of confusion around it,” said Julie Tinney, a recently married lesbian.

“I think it can be a polarizing issue and what I am hearing a lot in the last week or two is that just as people in the presidential campaign are fed up with the politics as usual, and they want to talk about the issues, I am hearing some of that talk around Prop 8,” said Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Church in Pasadena.

It is easy to see why problems arise in the debate over the issue. One sees it as a matter of civil rights and basic freedom. The other, along very similar lines, sees it as a matter of faith and religious freedom. Either way, it is a fundamental difference in belief that is not easily swayed.

Most issues, journalists know all to well, are not black and white but carry with them varying degrees of positives and negatives. They are clouded by the nature of existence that doesn’t usually allow something good without some element of unease, that doesn’t create evil without some level of humanity.

And that is what seems to be missing, by all acounts, from the debate surrounding Prop 8 and gay marriage. Both sides seem to have left out the humanity. While advocating there own side, some have forgotten they are arguing against the beliefs and way of life as others. And to argue against that, often enough, is to argue against that person on a very personal level.

People carry their religion with them, as a well fastened part of their being. For some people, their worth and existence revolves around their faith in God and the Bible. Arguing against that religion, and often, trying to discredit that religion can be intensely hurtful.

On the other side, gay and lesbian individuals believe this is who they are and they have accepted and embraced that, whether or nor they chose it or not. To separate them from a portion of society because of that lifestyle can leave them feeling alone and rejected.

Either way, when this issue is decided Tuesday, someone will be left out in the cold. What the effects of that will be remains to be seen. What I do know is that whoever “wins” this battle may celebrate that victory on Wednesday, but we should all be a little sad because no matter what, that victory will come at a cost at our neighbors expense, by punishing them for who they are and what the believe. We will have taken something from them, pass or fail. And with that, we all may have lost a little bit of our humanity.

“I think there is a possibility to agree to disagree,” Tanuvasa said.

On the issue of Prop 8, I am not so sure.

Come on, take a free ride…



Outgoing Sen. Bob Margett, R-Glendora, is among the nearly dozen California lawmakers that will be taking a trip to India to learn about education reform and environmental protection, the L.A. Times reports:

Because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he may call a special session to deal with the budget shortfall, Senate leader Don Peralta (D-Oakland) has approved the trip on the condition that those who fly overseas return to California if a budget vote is scheduled.

Those planning to attend the trip include Sens. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), Dave Cox (R- Fair Oaks), Denise Ducheny (D-San Diego), Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), Bob Margett (R-Arcadia) and Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles). Sen. Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine) had planned to go, but told organizers he may stay home.

Baldwin Park Town Hall meeting

There is going to be a Town Hall meeting on the proposed redevelopment project in Baldwin Park tonight at 6 p.m. at St. John’s Catholic Church, 3883 Baldwin Park Blvd.

The church is lending their hall to Bisno – the developer – for the meeting, but isn’t offering an official stance for or against the issue. Apparently, the church passed out a total of 5,000 fliers in their bulletins to let people know about meeting.

I’ve gotten some calls from business owners who don’t attend that church, and didn’t get the flier. They found out about the meeting through other means – they’ll be attending anyway.

LP tow services remain status quo

Since it was my day off yesterday, reporter Bethania Palma attended the La Puente City Council meeting last night. The most interesting thing on the agenda was Councilman John Solis’ item about a tow services agreement. Judging from Palma’s web update below, it seems Solis may have been considering going with another tow company for impound services.

Unfortunately for Solis, the majority of his colleagues on the dias didn’t think that was such a good idea, especially considering the ongoing investigation into former Industry traffic Sgt. Joe Dyer for allegedly stealing $500,000 in tow revenues from city coffers.

And still no word back from Solis – going on three weeks now without a call back from the councilman.

LA PUENTE – City officials Tuesday night chose to forego further discussion of the city’s current tow contract and stay with what they have – for now.

City Councilman John Solis had requested discussion on the city’s towing services, but the council decided 3-2 not to take any further steps on the matter.

The city relies on the Sheriff’s Department, which in turn contracts with Haddick’s Towing for impound services.

Solis’ request came just two weeks after city and sheriff’s department officials confirmed an ongoing investigation into whether a Industry Station deputy embezzled $500,000 in towing fees from city coffers.

Councilman Dan Holloway made the motion to leave the city’s towing arrangement as is, with Councilwoman Nadia Mendoza and Mayor Louie Lujan agreeing.

Solis and Councilwoman Lola Storing voted against the motion.

Solis had asked to “pass it on to the city attorney and city manager to see what can be done to bring it back to us.”

Holloway said he was concerned about discussing the city’s tow services in light of the investigation into former traffic Sgt. Joe Dyer.

Dyer retired in May, about a day and a half after he was placed on paid leave by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

Sheriff Lee Baca has said he expects to submit a criminal case against Dyer to the District Attorney by the end of the year.

Solis made a request in August 2007 to solicit bids for an exclusive tow franchise agreement, which also failed to garner sufficient support from the City Council.
Bob’s Towing representatives were in attendance Tuesday night to plead their case.

“We’re here today because the city of La Puente is leaving $60,000 of free money,” said Wayne Blake, a Bob’s Towing employee. “We don’t understand why.”

Last year, city officials received an unsolicited bid from Bob’s Towing for a five-year, $300,000 contract.

Solis did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.

Leftovers from Leftovers

We forgot to put this up this week…so here it is. Monday’s Leftovers:

So just how does $500,000 go missing from city coffers over the course of many years without anyone noticing?

That’s the half million dollar question facing the city of La Puente and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department right now.

The sheriff’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau is probing allegations former Industry Sgt. Joe Dyer stole nearly $500,000 in impound fees meant for La Puente.

The details of the alleged scheme are slim, but here’s what we’ve got so far:

La Puente is supposed to get $168 each time a car is towed.

That fee is paid to the sheriff’s Industry Station, which issues a receipt that the driver then provides to La Puente-based Haddick’s towing company to reclaim his or her car. The driver also pays a separate fee to Haddick’s before the car is released.

According to La Puente Councilwoman Lola Storing, Dyer allegedly was dropping off only a portion of those fees and receipts at City Hall.

While city officials reconciled the money and the records Dyer brought in, they never checked their figures with Haddick’s.

That all changed when a Haddick’s statement was left at City Hall on Dec. 20. It shows from Jan. 1 to Dec. 30, 2007, La Puente should have received $192,360 in tow fees.

The city’s budgets tell a different story. La Puente received $78,630 from vehicle impound fees in fiscal year 2005-06 and another $85,180 in fiscal year 2006-07.

The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

La Puente officials have remained pretty mum on the issue. Calls to interim City Manager Frank Tripepi have gone unanswered over the last week.

A source close to the investigation seems to think a large part of problem may have been irresponsible bookkeeping and a lack of oversight at City Hall.

According to Storing, Dyer allegedly would drop off this money in cash at the front counter at City Hall, sometimes in bags.

La Puente Mayor Louie Lujan said the city trusted the Sheriff’s Department for a long time.

Sheriff Lee Baca now says he doesn’t want his men “to act as cashiers” anymore, according to sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.

The department is reviewing its policies on collecting tow fees and could be heading toward a cashless system. Or, deputies could be phased out of the equation completely, Whitmore said.

La Puente is doing something similar. Earlier this year, the city hired San Jose-based Management Partners to review its contracts, services and procedures at City Hall.

One of those procedures was specifically cash handling.

City Hall employees apparently weren’t really following protocols, and those out-of-date protocols weren’t really being enforced.

“In the future we have to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Lujan said. “We have to make sure we have checks and balances to prevent it.”

Claims are false, councilman says


Councilman Steve Herfert on Tuesday said that accusations made about him are false. Councilman Roger Hernandez allages that Herfert threatened him in a closed door meeting, as detailed in this previous post.

“This is so untruthful that it turns my stomach,” Herfert said. “When he gets in trouble, he makes accusations that are unfounded. It is unfortuante that he is picking on me, and he is saying things I didn’t do.” 

Among the statements made written by Hernandez and addressed to City Manager Andrew Pasmant, Hernandez alleges:

As you are aware, during the closed session of September 2, 2008, Councilmember Herfert directed several loud and threatening statements towards me. Specifically, he directed the following comments towards me: “We’re gonna come after your ass,” “If not us, someone else will, ” and “We are gonna sue your ass.” They were made in a physically aggressive manner, while leaning into my personal space and waving his finger in a confrontational manner, which made all staff and councilmembers visibly uncomfortable. I understood his statements and body language as making a threat upon my life and livelihood. As I noted to you then and the Chief of Police thereafter, these statements caused me to fear for my personal safety.