City makes last-ditch effort to save water takeover suit

Claremont is fighting back and urging the court to overturn its tentative decision against the water takeover.

The city’s legal representatives have accused the court of multiple errors in judgment in their 79-page rebuttal to LA Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin’s tentative decision.

The decision, handed down on November 10, ruled in Golden State Water Company’s (GSW) favor and rejected the city’s claim of eminent domain over the Claremont water system. The city’s legal counsel, led by attorney Ken MacVey of Best, Best & Kreiger, issued 12 general objections and more than 70 specific objections to the court’s decision.

Among the objections was Judge Fruin’s insistence that the city did not enter any list of reasons for the takeover. But the city tried to admit the administrative record to support the resolutions of necessity, and was rebuffed by the court.

“The court refused to admit the administrative record, which contains documents that identify the justifications, rationale, considerations and alternatives considered by the city in the resolutions of necessity,” the objection stated.

The city also took the court to task over the court’s request for the list of reasons itself, claiming that there was no legal requirement for the city to “include in its resolutions of necessity a detailed description of the project, the rationale for approving the project, how the agency intends to go about implementing the project, and the specific public benefits that the project will yield,” the objection states.

“Nevertheless, the court held the city to this requirement,” the objection continued. “This is error.”

The objection also calls out the court for sending mixed messages as to the sufficiency of the resolutions of necessity, noting that the tentative decision regarded the city’s stated reasons for the takeover, which was voted upon by the council, “insufficient.”

“In so doing, the court is substituting itself in place of the legislative body and is making policy determinations that it is not entitled to make,” the objection states.

The document also noted that the court regarded the resolutions of necessity “sufficient” at the end of the trial, and called for the court to align the final decision with what was stated during proceedings.

The city also objected to the court’s suggestion that the city council testify during trial, calling it “improper.”

“Having legislators testify as to the intent and purposes behind legislation violates case law, standard legal practice and the constitutional concept of separation of powers,” the city alleges.

The objection further tears into the court’s claim that Claremont did not present enough evidence at trial to support the takeover, noting that it only did what the law allowed them to do. This is highlighted once more in the eighth general objection, where the city stated that they only needed to present a “general statement of public use for the property to be taken” and nothing more.

“The city did this, yet the court found it to be inadequate,” the city claims.

The city accuses the court of citing the wrong precedent in eminent domain law—Stockton v. Marina Towers. In Stockton, the city claims, there was no project presented for the takeover, while Claremont had a clear and present project cited in its case to take over the system.

But the longest general objection was reserved for the court’s claim against La Verne, which has entered into an operation partnership with the city in case Claremont takes over the system. La Verne’s water quality record was lambasted throughout the trial, to the point that the La Verne city council drafted a cease-and-desist letter to GSW.

La Verne’s past, the city argued, was inadmissible in court because it isn’t germane to whether or not Claremont should take over the system. They called evidence about Claremont’s neighbor to the west “inadmissible hearsay.”

Claremont also noted that Jerry Mesa—who was called to testify about the La Verne water system—was not serving as operator when the violations occurred several years ago, and asserted that the system was in ship-shape since he was brought on board.

Among the more than 70 specific objections, the city addressed lower water rates, which the court noted was brought up as a possible result of municipal control. The city claimed that the court placed an “unfair burden on the city,” and never identified “lowering water rates” as an objective of the takeover.

The judge is expected to issue his final decision by the end of December.

—Matthew Bramlett


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