Lawsuit Against NCSD Thrown Out Of Court
A judge ruled Thursday that a group suing the Nipomo Community Services District over an increase in water connection rates filed the lawsuit too late.
Judge Martin Tangeman said in a written ruling that the plaintiffs, Citizens Against Unlawful Fees, missed the 120-day statute of limitations. The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 27, 123 days after the new fees went into effect.
The plaintiff group filed the lawsuit after the district raised water connection fees to $13,000 from about $3,000. The complaint said the fees were illegal and unfair.
The district said the increase was needed to pay for a pipeline to bring much-needed water from Santa Maria to Nipomo.
While members of the district believed they could have won the lawsuit, General Manager Michael LeBrun said, it did not want to have to go into a full-blown trial. Without a lawsuit pending, district staff doesn't have to worry about delaying the pipeline project.
"It's a real relief," LeBrun said. "We want to put this behind us and move forward."
I am troubled by this lawsuit for several reasons. First, just who are these citizens suing on my behalf as a Nipomo resident? I don't recall there being a public meeting to band together a group of citizens to sue our local services district. A previous Tribune article noted about this particular group:
The lawsuit was filed by an anonymous group called Citizens Against Unlawful Fees. .
It's unclear who the plaintiff group is or how many people are in it. The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs own property in the Nipomo district and have been required to pay the new fees.
Why do these citizens of Nipomo refuse to identify themselves? Are they ashamed of their actions in forming a group and suing our local services district? Are there any citizen groups which advocate for unlawful fees by government? I'm curious to know just who these folks are, who likely cost the district rate payers a tidy sum of money in attorneys' fees having to defend a lawsuit, that didn't even survive the initial pleading stages of litigation. Actually I'm a bit perturbed at having to help fund the defense of a case that was apparently so weak that Judge Tangeman threw it out before litigation even commenced. I'll try to follow up and see if I can obtain the defense costs from the district office.
Another troubling aspect of the lawsuit is the public policy implications. The NCSD is Nipomo's only elected legislative body, dealing with local policy issues. The NCSD, our elected representatives decided to pursue supplemental water. This is probably a good idea, though it is questionable that there exists any imminent water crises in Nipomo. So, the NCSD board contracted with Santa Maria to purchase surplus water from them. To deliver that water, a pipeline has to be built. To build a pipeline costs money. Raising fees, was one way the NCSD board decided to pay for this pipeline. It also puts the burden on paying for the surplus water on the newer Nipomo residents who will allegedly further stress the aquifer from which we all drink here in Nipomo. If successful, this suit could have crippled this pipeline project, or certainly slowed its development.
Nipomo is and will continue to change. We need to come to grips with that reality, and plan how best to face our ever changing future. I'm hoping these masked citizens of Nipomo do not plan to appeal their legal endeavors.