Claremont Insider: Water Board Maintains Censure for Alvarez

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Water Board Maintains Censure for Alvarez

The Three Valleys Municipal Water District voted yesterday to keep board member Xavier Alvarez's censure in place, according to an article by Will Bigham in the Daily Bulletin.

The censure was imposed last year by the water board because Alvarez had falsely claimed he was still married to his ex-wife, which allowed the woman to receive about $4,800 in medical benefits through Three Valleys.

The Bigham piece indicated that Alvarez argued that he was compelled because of his religion to provide for his ex-wife:

At Friday morning's board meeting, Alvarez said he was obligated for religious reasons to care for his former spouse.

"What I did was not intentional," Alvarez said. "I did it because of my religion. I'm still married (according) to the Catholic Church, and we are told to still provide.

"You can laugh at it," he added. "It's all right. It shows that you have no respect for religion, but that's your prerogative."

Alvarez also said the district was not harmed by his actions because the agency's insurer reimbursed it for the $4,800 spent.

So, Alvarez has another rationale for lying: it's a religious right. You may recall that Alvarez's defense for the federal criminal charges against him for lying about being a Medal of Honor recipient was that he had a First Amendment right to lie. You can hear audio of Alvarez's religion defense here.

The court didn't buy Alvarez's free speech argument any more than the Three Valleys board accepted Alvarez's religion arguments. Alvarez's trial is set for May 6th in the Federal Court in Los Angeles.

Bigham also reported that "A group of about a dozen veterans attended the meeting," with three of them addressing the board to urge them not to rescind the censure. The Bulletin's page for Bigham's article also includes audio of ABC News reporter Brian Rooney trying to interview Alvarez. Rooney, who reports for ABC's "World News Tonight," gives Alvarez a pretty good grilling. (No ABC video for this yet.)

Alvarez's claim that the district suffered no loss from his lie about the $4,800 spent on his ex-wife's medical benefits should not bar the Los Angeles District Attorney's office from pursuing felony charges against Alvarez. Just because the district was reimbursed the money from their health insurer, does not mean there was no attempt at theft or fraud by Alvarez.

After all, Claremont McKenna College visiting psychology professor Kerri Dunn was convicted of felony attempted insurance fraud after falsely claiming that her car had been vandalized in a hate crime in March, 2004. It turned out that the incident was a hoax staged by Dunn, who also called her auto insurance company to see if there was coverage for the damage to the car.

Dunn went no farther with her claim. All she did was make a phone inquiry. She received no money from the insurer, yet she was charged and convicted of the attempted insurance fraud and a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report. Dunn was sentenced to one year in prison and had to pay a $20,000 fine.

Surely if Dunn's mere inquiry constitutes an attempted fraudulent claim, then Alvarez's actual false health insurance application for his ex-wife should constitute fraud and/or theft. What are the Los Angeles District Attorney and the California Department of Insurance doing about this besides sitting on their thumbs?