The Central Basin Municipal Water District, a Los Angeles-area entity whose contracting practices and relationship with consultant and former Assemblyman Tom Calderon are under a federal magnifying glass, has sued a firm that reaped contracts worth millions.
Documents show that Pacifica Services has won multiple contracts from Central Basin over the years, including one to help construct a federally-funded pipeline whose utility and cost was challenged by local mayors and water workers.
Now Central Basin is suing Pacifica for overbilling more than $850,000. The water district directed Pacifica last month to stop charging on a contract for professional services, including engineering consulting, but Pacifica has persisted, according to Central Basin spokesman Joseph Legaspi.
"There's a certain amount they were approved to charge us and they went over that," Legaspi said.
The lawsuit comes as Central Basin's newly installed general manager, Antonio Perez, oversees a review of the water wholesaler's relationship with Pacifica Services. Legaspi confirmed that the district has hired someone to comb through old invoices for signs of overcharging or other irregularities.
"I think there's really a focus by the board and all of Central Basin's management to look at all expenses and see how we can reduce them," Legaspi said.
In June, days after FBI agents searched the Sacramento office of Sen. Ron Calderon D-Montebello, the Central Basin received a federal subpoena seeking more information about contracts - including those involving federal stimulus dollars - and about Ron's older brother Tom Calderon, who until recently made more than $11,000 a month as a consultant for Central Basin.
Now, Central Basin is also reconsidering a decision to retain two lobbying firms, Tres Es Consulting and Political Solutions LLC. Tres Es is led by former California State Senate Majority leader Richard Polanco, who is referred to in minutes from a Central Basin meeting as "an iconic figure in Southern California politics" capable of providing "quality state lobbying services and "exceptional local lobbying expertise."
The water district's board of directors voted in May to hire the two firms, but in July Central Basin's communications committee voted against that recommendation and sought to issue a new bid for lobbying services.
PHOTO: The Central Basin Municipal Water District offices are located in Commerce, Calif., seen here in this undated photo. Photo by Central Basin Municipal Water District.