San Juan Capistrano

The Water Rate Lawsuit - What Now?

by John Perry

Capistrano Taxpayers Association

The California Constitution exists to protect the citizens from government. The fundamental rights contained in the Constitution are a guarantee that cannot be violated by the government.
John Perry, Board Member
 Capistrano Taxpayers Association

Each government official when, elected or appointed, is required to swear to protect and defend the constitution to the best of their ability. When officials pass laws that infringe on constitutional issues, the people have the right to challenge those actions in court and to have a Judge determine if their rights have been violated.

In the case of Capistrano Taxpayers Association vs. City of San Juan Capistrano, the issue was if the city violated the provisions of the California Constitution by imposing a tiered water rate schedule that is not based upon actual costs on its residents and by forcing residents to subsidize recycled water. The city actions were declared unconstitutional by Superior Court Judge Munoz on August 28, 2013.
The case is not a simple municipal issue; it is about whether the City Council violated the constitutional rights of its residents when it imposed a new water rate schedule in February 2010. According to Judge Munoz, it did. The question now is how the City Council will react to the judge’s decision. So far, three members of the city council have voted to appeal the Superior Court’s decision in the 4th District Appellate Court in hopes the case will be overturned. They also decided to continue to bill the illegal water rates while the appeal process plays out over the next 18 months.

This course of action is financially risky for the city. If the appeal fails, the city will be liable for all of the illegal water charges paid by residents under protest during the appeal period. The three members of the council are also spending taxpayer money on legal firms to support the appeal process. The question is whether the city has sufficient revenue to repay all of the water users for illegal rates that may go back to February 2010.

This lawsuit was not filed for the benefit of the CTA; it gets no financial benefit from the suit except for recovering its court costs and filing costs. The suit was initiated because the city refused to listen to warnings that the February 2010 water rate structure was illegal under Proposition 218. Under advice from the city attorney, the council proceeded to adopt the schedule; increasing the rates by 49% and forcing consumers to subsidize recycled water users.

The remaining city councilman that voted for the illegal water rates is Sam Allevato who was on the city council in 2010 and vocally supported the action as necessary and fair. Sam is now facing a recall for his continued support of billing the illegal water rates during the appeal and for his failure to seek a less expensive source of water instead of producing local water at greater cost to the consumers.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Thank you Judge Munoz for standing behind SJC residents and against the corruption of Sam Allevato and company...

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