What Oxnard City Hall attempted in court yesterday was sad, though not surprising.
Believing they'd have a better chance to defend a pattern of illegal utility revenue transfers if the opposing side wasn't allowed to present evidence, they asked a judge to disallow the evidence we have collected.
First, some background.
We discovered from the City’s own documents that Oxnard was unlawfully siphoning $7 million each year from the city-owned utilities … all while substantially raising our utility rates.
The City calls it an Infrastructure Use Fee. We call it a scam to divert money that ought to instead be used for utility repairs and maintenance!
Even after we informed City Hall that the courts have ruled these transfer schemes are a violation of Proposition 218, the City REFUSED to stop the practice.
So, as a last resort, we filed a lawsuit back in March of 2017.
For almost three years we gathered evidence by deposing people whom the City asserts are their most knowledgeable persons – some claimed to not know much of anything! – and compelling the City to supply documents and answer questions under oath.
We are now ready to go to trial.
Our evidence is DEVASTATING to City Hall’s case.
With these facts, Oxnard City Hall knows a judge will likely order a stop to their siphoning … and possibly even require that ratepayer money be returned to the city-owned utilities.
On January 23, in a desperate move, the City pleaded with the court to toss out ALL the evidence we gathered.
Fortunately, Judge Matthew Guasco recognized the implications and denied the City’s motion. In his well-reasoned decision, the judge stated that denying our ability to present evidence would be “Kafkaesque.”
It’s disappointing the extent to which City Hall is willing to use hide-the-ball tactics.
The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn.
Judge Guasco has ordered both sides to confer within the next 30 days to set a trial date.
From our perspective, it couldn’t come too soon.