Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer and other city leaders have a response for the small north Fresno water district fingering them for having to raise sewer rates: don’t blame us.
The Pinedale County Water District provides utility services to nearly 3,500 residents and businesses. In 2008, the city of Fresno sued PCWD demanding an audit, as allowed in a contract between the two government agencies. PCWD fought the city in court and continually lost. In 15 years of litigation, the district says it owes the city $300,000 in legal fees.
To pay its debt, PCWD said it needs to raise sewer rates by 5%. In a notice to customers to start the rate hike process, it blamed the city and provided contact information for Dyer and two city councilmen.
Dyer says no way.
“I do not appreciate Mr. Costanzo’s misrepresentation of the matter and misplaced blame for legal costs that resulted from his unsuccessful appeals through the courts,” Dyer said, referring to PCWD attorney Neal Costanzo.
Dyer said Costanzo should know that it is the city council, and not his office, that “have full authority over legal matters. I will continue to respect the Charter and reiterate my commitment to investing in those who live in the Pinedale region,” Dyer said.
City Manager: ‘Deliberate Spreading of False Information’
“If I was on the board of Pinedale Water District, I would have sought new legal representation a long time ago.” — Fresno City Attorney Andrew Janz
Other city officials also sent statements to GV Wire, criticizing PCWD. City Manager Georgeanne White said she wanted to correct the “deliberate spreading of false information in the media” by PCWD. She said the dispute predated anyone working in the Dyer administration.
“Over many decades the City of Fresno and its taxpayers generously spent millions of dollars in capital improvements specifically in the area of Pinedale. In exchange, PWD agreed to collect and remit certain monies from their customers to the City. Unfortunately, PWD broke their promise and refused to allow the City to examine their financial documents as was required by the agreement,” White said.
She called the years of litigation “frivolous.”
City Attorney Criticizes; Pinedale Attorney Responds
Fresno City Attorney Andrew Janz, who reports to the city council, also chimed in with free advice.
“If I was on the board of Pinedale Water District, I would have sought new legal representation a long time ago. Why file multiple appeals knowing that your client would be on the hook for the legal fees? Even the California Supreme Court denied their petition. The truth of the matter is that PWD broke their promise and refused to make the City of Fresno taxpayers whole.”
Constanzo, the PCWD attorney, responded.
“That is the opinion of an attorney who has zero experience in civil matters or appeals and no concept of what orders were appealed or the legal basis for appealing,” Costanzo told GV Wire.
“If I were a Fresno City Council Member, I would not have voted to hire a former criminal prosecutor and failed political candidate to occupy the office of city attorney. Apparently Janz believes he can effectively represent the city in its legal disputes by leveling personal attacks on his adversaries the way he did in his failed political campaigns. His comment about Pinedale breaking some imaginary promise to make City of Fresno taxpayers whole demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge about the litigation the city initiated for absolutely no reason at all. Real attorneys do not shoot from the hip like that but politicians like him do it as a matter of routine,” Costanzo said.
Janz had the last word.
“It was actually the opinion of a Superior Court judge, a panel of appellate court judges, and the opinion of the Supreme Court who collectively have over 500 years worth of legal experience,” Janz said.