Central Basin Municipal Water District ratepayers are footing the bill to the tune of $79,000 to pay claims arising from a 2010 six-car automobile accident involving board member Art Chacon, despite a finding that Chacon was not working at the time of the accident and was at fault, according to insurance and other records.
The accident occurred around 5:40 p.m. on a Thursday in November 2010. Chacon was driving a Nissan Frontier home southbound in the usual rush hour traffic on the 710 freeway.
According to a report by the California Highway Patrol, Chacon was using a cellphone and driving at an unsafe speed. The resulting six-car pileup was so bad, the CHP shut down three lanes of traffic near the 710 and 105 interchange so ambulances could get in.
Although Central Basin's insurance authority determined Chacon was off the clock at the time of the crash, records show the water district has paid out $16,000 to settle a claim related to damages and injuries.
"This entire narrative raises a number of questions as to what was really happening as to the car accident that took place and whether Director Chacon should’ve been reimbursed and whether he should’ve been able to get worker’s compensation," said Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson.
Central Basin board members Vasquez and Roybal said they were unaware of the lawsuit payout and Chacon's workers' compensation payment until KPCC informed them. Both said the board had not taken up either matter. Roybal said the lawsuit settlement should have come before the board.
Of the remaining board members, Phil Hawkins refused comment, and Bob Apodaca was unavailable.
Meanwhile, as Central Basin deals with the fallout from his accident, Chacon continues to receive a $590 monthly car allowance, even though as of last Friday, DMV records show he does not have a valid driver’s license. Chacon's license has been suspended numerous times since 2011, according to the records.
According to Central Basin’s Code of Conduct, board members must have a valid driver’s license and insurance in order to travel by private car while on district business.
"It is a somewhat of a sticky situation for the Central Basin to be paying for a car allowance for someone who shouldn’t be driving a car," said Loyola Law School’s Levinson.