City appropriates funds to defend Golden State’s lawsuit

Dear Editor: On February 25, the Claremont City Council was forced to appropriate $150,000 from its general fund to defend a lawsuit by Golden State Water Company. Golden State is asking a court to order the city to release the feasibility report, appraisal and other financial information related to the city’s offer to purchase the Claremont water system.

Though the California Public Records Act explicitly protects these documents, Golden State Water Company is arguing that the city must release the information based on the fact that some information contained in the documents was presented at a community town hall meeting on November 6, 2013.

During the town hall meeting, the city provided the community with as much information as possible while protecting its position in a complex legal process. The city has been transparent throughout the process and continues to inform the public. With this lawsuit, Golden State Water Company is attempting to turn these efforts against the city.

City staff understands that Golden State Water Company, the media and the public may want to view these documents; however, the law exempts certain privileged information for good reason. While the law recognizes transparency as important, it also acknowledges situations where disclosure creates a disadvantage for public agencies. Golden State Water is using this law to demand the release of privileged city information, yet, Golden State is under no legal obligation to release similar information.

City staff and legal counsel believe this lawsuit is not about transparency and disclosure; it is Golden State Water’s way of demonstrating it has the power and resources to fight the city at every opportunity. Unfortunately, the water company is using money from the exorbitant rates paid by Claremont residents to file this lawsuit.

While the city defends itself against this lawsuit, the Claremont City Council and its team of experts will move forward in the acquisition process. The city is committed to following the process outlined by state law. 

As part of this process, the city council will hold a public hearing on March 25 at 6:30 p.m. at Taylor Hall for the Claremont community to participate in deciding what is in the public’s best interest regarding water.