Water group plays hardball over public records request

The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights (CAPPPR) is stepping up its game with the city of Claremont by filing a second request for public documents regarding the city’s action to purchase Golden State Water Company. CAPPPR has given the city until Friday, March 1 to respond or it will move for a court order demanding the city comply.

In a letter dated January 9, CAPPPR made reference to its initial public records request of November of 2012 where it sought information “regarding [the city’s] plan to forcibly seize a private company by eminent domain.”  Documents requested include all documentation illustrating water rates residents would be charged following a city take over, the full feasibility study conducted from 2004 to 2007, and any writings that reflect the city’s plan to acquire Golden State by sale or eminent domain.

CAPPPR has also requested correspondence to and from local water activists Freeman Allen, Hal Hargrave, Adam Scow, Michael Keenan, Jim Graham, Randy Scott, Pat McPherson, Ryan Blatz, Matt Jones as well as the groups Food and Water Watch, Felton and Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water, Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates, Claremont Taxpayers Against Golden State Water and any individuals from the League of Women Voters.

In a follow up letter dated February 25, CAPPPR has made a second demand, stating that the city of Claremont and its council’s refusal to comply with the requests is in violation of Government Code Section 6253(c), which states that the city has 10 days from the date of receipt to respond to requests. It has been 45 days since CAPPPR’s initial request.

According to the latest letter, CAPPPR noted that Claremont city officials sent multiple letters requesting clarification and responding that, because the city has not made an attempt to “forcibly seize Golden State Water Company,” the request for documentation could not be fulfilled.

On November 7, 2012, the Claremont COURIER made a public records request for “the Feasibility Study that accompanied the city’s offer for purchase of the water system as well as any and all documentation, including fax, emails and written correspondence, relating to the water system purchase as well as any correspondence the city has made with the Public Utilities Commission” from March 1 through November 8, 2012.

On December 6, City Clerk Lynne Fryman responded to the request for Public Utilities Commission correspondence stating that the city “was not in possession of any documents matching the request.”

In reference to documents related to the purchase of the water company for the same time period, Ms. Fryman stated that the city was “continuing to gather and review documents” that match the request with an expected completion date of December 20, 2012. The request for the feasibility study was denied by the city based on the Brown Act, which, according to city officials, does not allow for the release of documents by a local public body during a real estate transaction.

Documents received from the city of Claremont by the COURIER included Golden State Water newsletters, copies of mass emails from Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates and Google alerts linking stories from the Felton and Ojai water issues from other news organizations.

CAPPPR has said if the city does not provide fulfill the public records request by Friday, March 1, the Alliance “will have no other recourse but to seek a court order for the release of the documents pursuant to Govt. Code 6258 and 6259(a)&(b).

—Kathryn Dunn



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