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Baldwin Park ties to Rialto water district raise questions about employment contracts

By in Press Enterprise on December 23, 2017

By Joe Nelson

After being sworn in Dec. 7 as a new board director for the West Valley Water District in Rialto, Baldwin Park Police Chief Michael Taylor’s first action was nominating Baldwin Park City Attorney Robert Tafoya to serve as the district’s new general counsel. The contract was approved on a 4-1 vote with board director Don Olinger voting no.

Three weeks prior, on Nov. 15, Tafoya recommended that the City Council approve Taylor’s one-year police chief contract, which was approved on a 3-2 vote. The contract ensures Taylor cannot be fired unless he commits a felony offense and that he receive no annual performance evaluation. It also ensures his pension will increase by $25,000.

Tafoya helped negotiate Taylor’s contract, which Taylor wrote himself, city officials said. Taylor had previously served as the city’s police chief for nearly three years before the City Council voted 3-2 to fire him in September 2016.

Some say Taylor and Tafoya clearly benefitted from each other’s actions, and that it was inappropriate.

“It sounds to me like the old phrase, ‘quid pro quo,’” said Don Olinger, who at age 90 is the longest-serving member on the West Valley Water District’s board of directors. He has served on the board for 13 years. The remaining directors have served less than five years on the board, and two of its newest directors — Taylor and Kyle Crowther — were elected to the board in November.

Neither Taylor nor Tafoya returned repeated telephone calls and emails seeking comment.

Above board?

Water District board President Clifford Young said in a telephone interview he could not comment on what occurred in Baldwin Park, but did say Tafoya’s firm had previously represented the district.

“I felt, as president of the board, that it was wise to retain counsel that we are familiar with. Since that time, I’m very satisfied […]    

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