Sunday, March 30, 2014


By Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News |

Central Basin Municipal Water District director James Roybal during a board meeting at the district’s headquarters in Commerce on March 13. Leo Jarzomb — Staff Photographer

3/26/14, 7:40 PM PDT | COMMERCE  ::   Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced Wednesday that James Roybal, an elected director of the Central Basin Municipal Water District, is under investigation and has been placed in the district’s “teacher jail.”

Roybal previously taught special education at Wilson High School in El Sereno, according to district records obtained by this news organization. He was placed in the teacher jail on Feb. 20, 2013, according to those records.

“Teacher jail” is the colloquial term used to describe the facility that teachers who are under investigation report to each day. The teachers continue to receive their pay but perform no work while the investigation is ongoing.

LAUSD spokesman Thomas Waldman said teachers who are on similar paid suspensions are typically under investigation for a wide range of allegations.

“It could be of a sexual nature or potentially money missing,” Waldman said.

Roybal has not returned six phone calls over the past three days seeking comment.

An LAUSD investigation can drag on for months, with teachers collecting their full pay — an average of $6,000 a month, plus benefits — until they’re returned to work or fired.

Waldman said he didn’t know what led to Roybal’s situation.

Director Leticia Vasquez, a Roybal ally on the board, said she would like to know what happened.

“I really think we should know what is happening with him at work,” Vasquez said.

“He does have an obligation to talk about it with the public,” she said. “I’ve asked him over and over but he says he’s been asked not to talk about it publicly because it’s a personnel matter.”

The district, a water wholesaler, has been under increased scrutiny since receiving a subpoena from the FBI as part of the investigation into former state Assemblyman Tom Calderon, D-Montebello, who had a $12,000 monthly consulting contract with the agency until February 2013.

District officials also have come under fire for paying off $16,000 to a woman injured in a accident with Director Art Chacon. A resident of Commerce, Chacon has not had a driver’s license for nearly a decade but continues to collect mileage and $597-a-month car allowance from the district.

LAUSD policy requires that Roybal report to the Education Service Center East on North Soto Street in El Sereno. He is required to be in the office from 7:30 until 10:30 a.m. After that he is required to go to his house in the 4500 block of Maris Avenue in Pico Rivera. The LAUSD requires that Roybal remain at home until 3 p.m. He is allowed an hour for lunch.

The rules require that Roybal not hold a job during those hours.

Since LAUSD placed Roybal in teacher jail he has reported to 23 meetings during the school year. He is paid $233 for each of those meetings.

While teaching at Wilson High School, Roybal attended four meetings -- that began at 2 p.m. or earlier during the school year. He was paid $233 per meeting.

“The fact that he has defrauded LAUSD by collecting a second salary of $30,000 plus benefits from Central Basin is criminal,” said Ron Beilke a former Central Basin assistant general manager who was fired by the Central Basin board in Jan. 2013 on a 3-2 vote. Roybal was among those who voted to fire Beilke.

“LAUSD has been paying him his full workday salary while his paid water district meetings overlapped,” Beilke said in an emailed statement. “(Roybal) was president for over a year and could have rescheduled meetings to hours that would have prevented this, but chose not to do so.”

Beilke, a former mayor of Pico Rivera, was voted out of office and convicted in January 2011 of two misdemeanor political corruption charges. He is on probation and barred from holding elected office until 2015.

No comments: