Montecito Water District Settles Lawsuit for $1.8 Million
By Alyssa Rendon, edhat staff
A class action lawsuit against the Montecito Water District (MWD) has been settled for over $1.8 million.
The lawsuit, led by Patrick M. Nesbitt, contends the MWD failed to give due process and comply with the constitutionality of Proposition 218, “The Right to Votes on Taxes Act.” The amendment was designed to protect taxpayers from paying increased fees and taxes set forth by their local government without their consent. The suit also addresses the inconsistent water rates that were improperly applied by restructuring the water rate use under Ordinance No. 90 as well as the violation of Resolution No. 2047.
In February of 2017, the court notified all potential parties of the class action lawsuit, giving them the opportunity to opt in or out. Once all notices were served and parties received their notices, only 122 of the 1,445 opted out of the suit.
By September of 2015, the Court ruled the MWD did violate the California Constitution and concluded the fees charged were disproportionate to the cost of water service. The court did not make a ruling or award any monetary compensation for damages incurred at that time. The MWD denied and continues to deny any wrongdoing and subsequently, is denying paying out refunds to those affected.
With the assistance of mediators, the two parties reached a settlement of $1,862,250 that has been moved to Judge Elinor Reiner for approval. The MWD will also pay $25,000 in administrative fees and up to $475,000 in attorney fees.
Those eligible for refund must have been a current or former Montecito non-agricultural customer from October 1, 2008 to August 31, 2013 and did not opt out of the lawsuit. Each customer who has not opted out is eligible to receive reimbursement.
To receive the refund, Class Members must complete a Claim Form before the July 5th deadline, and valid claims will receive refunds in the form of a check and will be issued once approved by the Court.
See more documents about this settlement here.