Glendale Settles Two Lawsuits Over Tiered Water Rates
The City of Glendale just settled two lawsuits filed by the Glendale Coalition for Better Government related to the method it used to charge for water service. The City owned utility is run as a separate entity, but City Council makes the financial decisions on its operation.
The rate structure in litigation was approved by City Council in August 2014, ignoring repeated protests by the Glendale Coalition for Better Government (Coalition), a non-profit watchdog group that seeks responsiveness and accountability in City government.
The law suit filed by the Coalition in January 2015, demanded that the rate structure be compliant with the law, but specified no monetary damages. In February 2017, the Superior Court of California ruled in favor of the Coalition on several causes of action and the City appealed the judgment on the tier structure costs, and on charges corresponding to water fire hydrants cost; while other causes of action were not appealed by the City.
In December 2018, the California Second Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Coalition on most causes of action except on the water hydrants charges. The City then filed an appeal with the California State Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, letting the Appeals Court decision stand.
Since the initial lawsuit filed by the Coalition only sought compliance with the law, no monetary damages were awarded by the court and a separate lawsuit had to be filed on behalf of Glendale’s water ratepayers to recover the moneys overcharged by the utility.
In 2018, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the water utility customers by William Taliaferro, a Board Member of the Coalition and a Glendale resident, requesting a refund for over charges. This lawsuit filling would only allow the recovery of overcharges for the year prior to the filling. For the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 no overcharge recovery was allowed by law.
In early 2019, the parties involved entered into negotiations to settle the class action lawsuit as well as the legal costs incurred by the Coalition on the tier water-rate structure lawsuit. In June 2019, the City, the Coalition, and Taliaferro reached a mutually agreed upon settlement for these lawsuits (settlement can be seen here).
The attorney fees and miscellaneous legal fees incurred as a result of the lawsuit fillings were court ordered to be paid by the City as the losing party. Sadly City Council and City Staff did not correct the rates when the problem was originally pointed out to them requiring legal action that ended up costing a tremendous amount of tax-payers money which could have been better used for necessary items in the budget.