June 9, 2013
Tim Dewar, firstname.lastname@example.org
In advance of Monday’s scheduled hearing in the Golden State Water Company (GSWC) lawsuit against Casitas Municipal Water District (CMWD), Superior Court Judge Mark Borrell issued a tentative ruling telling the investor-owned water company it jumped the gun. Despite efforts by GSWC’s attorneys to convince him otherwise at Monday’s hearing, he didn’t change his mind.
“Generally, courts are reticent to pass on measures which are to be put to the voters until after the election is held,” Borrell wrote. “Here, the arguments advanced by Golden State can be litigated after the election if the measure passes. On the other hand, if the measure is not approved, the parties’ dispute will be largely, if not entirely, rendered moot.”
On March 26, GSWC filed a lawsuit against CMWD seeking to vacate the resolutions the municipal water company adopted that would ask voters if they want to form a community facilities district to raise money to purchase GSWC’s Ojai service area.
GSWC officials have stated they do not wish to sell their operation and filed the lawsuit to prevent the voters within the service area from having the opportunity to vote on whether they wish to place a 30-year property tax on nearly 2,900 parcels.
“The governmental acts challenged by Golden State were taken under authority of the Mello-Roos Act, and those challenges are predicated upon an assertion that the requirements of that Act have not been, or cannot be, met. The Mello-Roos Act provides direction as to when such a court challenge may be commenced,” Borrell explained. “Golden State contends that these sections set forth “no proscription against challenging [community facilities district] formation or agency Resolutions before voter approval. But this argument is contradicted by the express language of the statutes, which provides that such an action be brought “within” a period of time “after” the election.”
At Monday’s hearing, Borrell scheduled a status conference for Sept. 16 at 8:30 a.m. to determine whether additional action can or needs to be taken. Because the election is scheduled for Aug. 27, Borrell set that date for the conference because it is within the 30-day post-election time frame allowed by statue for challenges to be undertaken.
In a written statement following the decision, GSWC’s Senior Vice President, Regulated Utilities Denise Kruger said, “We are pleased that the court will consider our concerns that the Casitas Municipal Water District’s Mello-Roos parcel tax plan may be illegal. We respect the court’s choice to wait until after the August election as voters could reject the plan.”
Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water (F.L.O.W.) member Ryan Blatz released this statement following the hearing. “Ojai F.L.O.W. has stated from the beginning that we intend to use the democratic process to redress our grievances with Golden State Water and the CPUC, and today is a huge step in that direction.”