Miner’s Camp vs FPUD Update: FPUD Illegal Rate Litigation.
The only time the FPUD is not shooting themselves in the foot, is when they are loading the gun. The intention of litigation was to force the FPUD to correct the illegal rates only after they were unwilling to fix the issue voluntarily.
After multiple attempts, Miner’s Camp filed a lawsuit on behalf of the entire Community, including 350 trailer park residents, apartments, and multi-unit properties that did not have a physical water meter but were charged as if a physical water meter existed. This was never a complicated issue.
Once both arguments were heard, the Superior Court commanded the FPUD to abandon their rate structure and create a new rate structure that complies with Prop 218. Once again, instead of fixing it, they chose to appeal which legally allows them to kick the can for another 2 years without having to accept responsibility.
If a private party like Miner’s Camp is required to enforce the California Constitution on behalf of a larger group, they are entitled to be reimbursed for their attorney fees. The Attorneys are required to submit detailed documents to the Court when going through this process, and they are carefully examined prior to ruling.
The Superior Court Awarded Miner’s Camp $86,000.00 to reimburse actual legal expenses as required by law. That was over 2 years ago. Now the cost has doubled and the FPUD is wondering why it is so expensive to settle this. IF THE DISTRICT WAS SO INTERESTED IN SETTLING, WHY WOULD THEY OPPOSE A MOTION TO RESOLVE THIS MATTER QUICKLY? Really?
The good news is the Community held the FPUD accountable throughout the new rate study, and when they had to use a certified rate consultant, magically, all the Phantom Meters and $2.00 credits for maintaining these invisible meters vanished. So the Community asks: if you fixed the illegal rates, what the hell are you appealing?
Since the FPUD still refuses to end the litigation voluntarily, Miner’s Camp has filed a motion on behalf of the Ratepayers to request an expedited hearing to finalize this matter as quickly as possible. Letters were submitted by Local and County Officials to support this motion. Stop the bleeding and move on.
In the spirit of transparency, Here is an excerpt of the motion filed: Here, the bottom line is that FPUD got caught charging for meters that did not exist (i.e., “Phantom Meters”) and, for more than two and one half years, refused to accept responsibility. Only July 29, 2021, FPUD adopted a new rate structure responding to the trial court’s order which went into effect August 15, 2021. In the interim, the Foresthill community continued to pay for Phantom Meters that do not exist. The majority of these ratepayers are low-income and are the ones most impacted by the illegal charges; and, if anyone refuses to pay for an illegal meter, they are submitted for lien against their County Property Tax. In fact, FPUD has transferred $7,863.44 in delinquent water charges for illegal Phantom Meters on Miner’s Camp property tax bill for 2020/2021 bringing the total delinquent charges for water charges which violate Proposition 218 on Miner’s Camp’s property tax bill to over $20,000.00 and resulting in a lien on Miner’s Camp’s property by the FPUD.
What’s more, the community at large has demanded that FPUD fix the problem instead of needlessly and hopelessly fighting via a bad faith appeal. “FIX IT vs. FIGHT IT” has been repeatedly demanded by the majority of Ratepayers.
In support of the community and this Motion, three letters were prepared by three community organizations, including the Foresthill Divide Chamber of Commerce, the Placer County Board of Supervisors and the Foresthill Community Development Council. These letters individually and collectively make it clear that the community is fed-up with FPUD and their illegal/bad faith tactics.
The FPUD has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of the ratepayers’ money to avoid responsibility. In addition, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5, FPUD is responsible by trial court order for reimbursing the attorneys’ fees and costs required to enforce FPUD to comply. The longer this is delayed the more the ratepayers are penalized by continuing to pay illegal rates and absorbing the litigation costs of fighting to get their utility to stop charging them illegally.
The Foresthill ratepayers have exercised all options available to them including a grass-roots recall effort to remove each of the four (4) Board members that continue to vote to enforce the illegal rates. However, the delay tactics only increase the financial burden on the ratepayers each month they must continue to pay illegal rates, as well as significant and unnecessary legal fees that could be utilized to repair an aging infrastructure.
The only platform for relief and enforcement, therefore, are the courts; this Appellate Court in particular.
CONCLUSION: For all of the foregoing reasons, Petitioner/Respondent Miner’s Camp respectfully requests calendar preference and that this appellate litigation be expedited. The City respectfully requests that this Court grant its motion for calendar preference and set an oral argument schedule that would allow the Court to issue a decision as soon as reasonably practicable.