WVWD Hires Fox, Certified Fraud Investigator, As Finance Manageris week read about…

The West Valley Water District’s hiring of William Fox is being hailed inside and outside the district as a major stride forward, beyond the financial misfeasance crossing into the arena of malfeasance that agency engaged in under the leadership of its two most recently departed board presidents.
Fox has both a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a Master of Business Administration degree from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. According to the West Valley Water District, he has “more than four decades of experience in auditing and public finance,” which includes being the director of finance and treasurer for the City of Vernon, chief financial officer for the Las Vegas Water District, assistant general manager of finance and risk management for the City of Glendale and internal audit manager for Southern California Edison. His most recent foray into the public sector was as the contract interim finance director with the City of South El Monte in 2020.
Of note is that in addition to being a certified public accountant, Fox holds licenses as a certified internal auditor and certified fraud examiner.The West Valley Water District is seeking to recover from multiple derogatories relating to activity by both board members and staff as well as relationships formed through the district among the board and staff in furtherance of what the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has alleged and which participants who have now been convicted acknowledge was a conspiracy linking the City of Baldwin Park and the West Valley Water District in a bribery scheme involving the licensing and permitting of marijuana-related and cannabis-related commercial ventures in Baldwin Park.
That scheme, according to the FBI, involved a conspiracy by which then-Baldwin Park City Councilman Ricardo Pacheco arranged for applicants for marijuana sales permits in Baldwin Park to provide money to former Baldwin Park Police Chief Michael Taylor to bankroll Taylor’s 2017 run for a position on the West Valley Water District Board of Directors. Additionally, according to the FBI, then-Baldwin Park City Attorney Robert Tafoya doctored the City of Baldwin Park’s ordinances and city code in such a way that Pacheco was able to confer upon two marijuana/cannabis-related business applicants favored status tantamount to a monopoly, while those businesses’ owners conveyed kickbacks to Pacheco. Taylor, who at that time was politically aligned with then-West Valley Board President Clifford Young, arranged and executed upon the hiring of Tafoya as the West Valley Water District’s legal counsel and Pacheco as the district’s assistant general manager at an annual salary of $189,592 per year, in addition to $62,000 in benefits and perquisites that made that contract worth $251,592 in total annual compensation. Meanwhile, after Taylor’s November 2017 election to the West Valley District Board of Directors but before he was sworn in, Tafoya and Pacheco arranged to have Taylor rehired as Baldwin Park police chief.
With Taylor in place as police chief, efforts to permit and license all of the marijuana/cannabis-based business applicants that had been bribing Pacheco and underwriting the cost of Taylor’s electioneering efforts at the West Valley Water District intensified. Those involved various money laundering strategies to hide the money being kicked back to Pacheco.
A further exploitation of the discretionary authority of the board members and senior staff members at West Valley Water District took place with the May 2018 hiring of another political figure, then-Hesperia City Councilman Jeremiah Brosowske, into one of the water district’s other assistant general manager posts at an annual salary of $189,592 per year and an additional $62,000 in benefits and perquisites that made that contract worth $251,592 in total annual compensation, identical to what Pacheco was receiving. Brosowske, just like Pacheco, had no experience, expertise, licensing or certification with regard to water utility operations. The assistant general manager job was extended to him as a sinecure, a do-noting assignment from which he was able to operate as a political operative working on election campaigns of candidates and issues favored by Taylor when he was in the capacity of board president.
Ultimately, a confluence of events would lead to the public exposure of the interrelated scandals at Baldwin Park City Hall and the West Valley Water District headquarters in Rialto. This included a political falling out between Clifford Young and Taylor, precipitated in the main by Taylor deposing Young as West Valley Water District board president and assuming that leadership role for himself. This led to Young’s filing of a lawsuit in which he exposed the backroom dealings that led to Pacheco’s and Tafoya’s hirings by the West Valley Water District, as well as an FBI sting operation that caught Pacheco red-handed shaking individuals in Baldwin Park and elsewhere down for bribes and kickbacks.
In June 2020 Pacheco was persuaded to resign from the Baldwin Park City Council, which occurred simultaneously with his unannounced arrest by the FBI and the filing of charges against him under seal by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Pacheco, under arrangement with the U.S. Department of Justice, entered a guilty plea to those charges, which pertained to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes. Withholding information about the arrest, charges and guilty plea facilitated Pacheco’s simultaneous secret cooperation with federal investigators with regard to a host of matters involving criminal activity about which he was knowledgeable.
Prior to all of that occurring, however, Pacheco, assisted by Taylor, had managed to milk more than half of a million dollars out of the West Valley Water District.
In May 2019, at which point Pacheco had already drawn $272,558 in salary and benefits in his capacity as assistant general manager for performing virtually no work whatsoever, it was announced that he was being put on paid administrative leave, such that he continued to draw his full pay until November 2019, amounting to more than $135,000 over the nearly eight months he was in total absentia. In November 2019, Pacheco’s employment with the district was terminated, and he was provided with an additional $146,459.82 severance equal to nine months’ salary. In this way, through the arrangements that Taylor and Tafoya had made for Pacheco with the assonance of the board majority and the district’s management, Pacheco was provided with at least $554,017.82 by the district.
Ultimately, the recognition that the district and its ratepayers were being taken for a ride by Pacheco led to the parallel revelation that Brosowske was occupying a position of political patronage rather than actual function. In April 2020, after he had been in place with his do-nothing $251,592 per year assignment for 11 months during which time he had been paid $230,626, he was terminated, at which point the district conferred on him a $154,884.80 severance.
An internal audit of the West Valley Water District’s books quantified at least $939,528.62 that had been paid in salary, benefits, perquisites and severance to Pacheco and Brosowske for work that was never specified, never quantified, never demonstrated as actually occurring and for which only their dual titles of assistant general manager were offered as justification.
The prime mover in the hiring of both Pacheco and Brosowske, Taylor, resigned from his board position as of June of this year and is now reportedly in negotiation with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office with regard to criminal charges to be lodged against him and accepted in some manner of a plea arrangement together with his cooperation in further investigations involving the water district and the City of Baldwin Park. The West Valley Water District terminated Tafoya as its general counsel last month. Clifford Young, who was once politically aligned with Taylor but grew to become his most committed opponent on the West Valley Water District Board, resigned from the board at the beginning of the year and died in August.
Van Jew is now serving as the district’s acting general manager,  following the resignation earlier this year of its previous general manager, Shamindra “Rickey” Manbahal.
The district, which is now led by President Channing Hawkins and board members Greg Young, Angela Garcia, Dan Jenkins and Director Kelvin Moore, carried out a recruitment effort to find a chief financial officer, ultimately selecting Fox for the assignment.
Fox’s value as recognized by others before he arrived at West Valley Water District might best be gauged by the $229,735 in salary and the $65,038.33 in perquisites and benefits, for a total annual compensation of $294,773.33, he was provided as Vernon’s treasurer and finance director in 2018, his last full year there.
The West Valley Water District is providing him with a salary of $235,768. He is also to be provided with annual benefits consisting of health insurance, dental insurance and vision coverage for himself and his wife, along with a long-term disability plan, life insurance plan, sick leave, education tuition, something titled “employee assistance,” 12 paid holidays per year, 120 hours of vacation per year, 120 hours of administrative leave per year and participation in the California Public Employees Retirement System, all of which totals a monetary value exceeding $60,000 per year.
In his new position, Fox will oversee the district’s finance, customer service and purchasing departments.
“I am confident that Mr. Fox’s years of experience, wealth of knowledge and values align with West Valley’s and that this appointment will strengthen and elevate our business operations,” said West Valley Water District Board President Channing Hawkins. “On behalf of myself and the entire board, we are excited to welcome him to the team.”
Board Member Greg Young said that the district “has been looking for a fiance director of Mr. Fox’s caliber for seven years.”
Young, who is no blood relation to Clifford Young, said that expenditure scandals such as those that accompanied the questionable employment of Pacheco and Brosowske were not likely to occur following the departure of Taylor from the board. He noted that hiring in the district is essentially carried out at the discretion of the district general manager, such that the finance director does not have a direct say in those decisions. Nevertheless, he said, Fox’s certification as a fraud examiner meant such arrangements as existed with Pacheco and Brosowske would not be likely to elude scrutiny.
“I think if anything like that were to occur again, it would raise a lot of red flags and Mr. Fox, based upon his gravitas and status would not be, I am sure, afraid to raise his concerns,” Greg Young said. “I think if he saw something like that, at the very least he would bring it to our attention and ask, ‘What’s going on here?’”
Young said, “Probably the best way to solve the sort of problems we had with Ricardo [Pacheco] and Jeremiah [Brosowske] is to have the right general manager. That is not to say that Van [Jew] is not suited for the job. I am looking forward to a professional recruitment effort, casting as wide a net as possible to come up with the best candidate for the position as possible, just as we did in finding William Fox. If, at the end, we determine Mr. Jew is the best fit for us, I am confident we can convince him to remain.”
Mark Gutglueck

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