Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ratepayer Group Issues Demand Letter to City

"Stop Misuse of Water & Sewer Funds or Face Lawsuit"

A newly formed citizen ratepayer organization, Citizens for Water Accountability, Trust & Reform (WATR) has issued a letter to Portland city officials demanding that the city immediately stop charging water and sewer ratepayers for expenditures on “unrelated” items and that the millions of dollars siphoned from the funds over the last few years be restored to the water and sewer funds.

The letter addressed to Mayor Sam Adams and all city commissioners, was hand delivered late Monday afternoon, October 31st. The document, issued by the law firm of Davis, Wright, Tremaine, on behalf of WATR, gives the city until November 15th to rectify the issue or face litigation to protect Portland ratepayers.

“Portland ratepayers have seen their water and sewer rates skyrocket the past few years while the city continues to tap the fund for non-water or sewer related services,” said Kent Craford, President of WATR.

“We believe the city has and continues to violate the Portland City Charter by diverting funds for unrelated general fund purposes. Despite much public disclosure by citizens and the media on the issue, the city continues to violate not only its own law but also the trust of the citizens of Portland. It is time the city be held accountable for violation of that trust and provide some relief from these spiraling rates,” Craford added.

WATR has retained the law firm of Davis, Wright, Tremaine, with John DiLorenzo as lead attorney. DiLorenzo has won a number of high-profile cases including action against SAIF Corporation that led to a complete overhaul of the insurer’s leadership and board of directors. The organization has also retained Parakletos Strategic Affairs to help develop strategic options and assist in executing its plan. Parakletos is led by Rick Metsger, a strong and successful ratepayer advocate during his twelve years in the Oregon Senate. He sponsored and passed SB 408 in 2005 which stopped utilities from charging ratepayers for taxes that the utilities subsequently never paid. 

“We are happy to have Mr. DiLorenzo and Mr. Metsger helping us in this battle to restore fairness to Portland’s ratepayers. Citizens have exhausted their options to have the city voluntarily correct this misappropriation of citizen’s hard-earned dollars which we believe are dedicated to sewer and water services. It is time this injustice be corrected and we believe we have assembled a team that will help us do just that,” Craford said.

The Demand Letter cites numerous expenditures from the water and sewer funds that were unrelated to essential water and sewer services, including using the fund to help pay for the political campaigns of city council candidates.  (The entire Demand Letter listing some of the other expenditures can be read here.)