By Brian Park
City Councilman Sam Allevato has filed his response to a recall campaign started by a group of residents upset about the nine-year councilmember’s support for the city’s disputed water rates.
Recall organizers, known as Residents for Honest Government, served Allevato with a notice of intent to recall during the September 17 City Council meeting. Allevato filed his 200-word response with the City Clerk’s office on Monday. In it, he defended his voting record and support for the city’s groundwater recovery plant and tiered water rate structure.
“I proudly stand behind every vote I cast. I voted yes to keep our city financially solvent by supporting balanced budgets, lower staffing costs and strategic planning. Yes, to protect open space, promote economic vitality and keep our city safe. Yes, to protect our future water resources, control water rates and reduce dependence from Metropolitan Water District. We have no choice where we buy our water, giving us no control over water rates. Our groundwater recovery plant (built before I joined the council) will provide independent rate control and supply for our city,” Allevato wrote.
In August, Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz ruled that the city’s water billing structure violated Proposition 218 because rates were not relative to cost of service. Munoz also found that the city was illegally charging residents for recycled water “despite the fact that not all ratepayers used recycled water or have it immediately available to them or would ever be able to use it.” Munoz’s ruling supported a lawsuit filed by the Capistrano Taxpayers Association, a local taxpayers’ rights group.
Allevato was part of a 3-2 closed session vote by the City Council to appeal the court’s decision. Attorneys for the city filed a notice of appeal Friday, September 6.
Recall organizers said the city’s decision to appeal in the lawsuit, in addition to Allevato’s February 2010 vote to establish the new rate structure, moved them to act.
“It was a difficult decision to recall, but it was a decision that was made for us when the city decided they wanted to appeal and not give back the residents the money that is due to them,” said Clint Worthington, who served Allevato with the notice and is one of 30 signatories on the notice. “We’re talking millions of dollars.”
Recall organizers must now publish the notice at least once in a newspaper of general circulation. Once the city clerk’s office approves the format of the recall petition, recall organizers have 120 days to gather petition signatures from 20 percent of the city’s 17,629 registered voters, or 3,525 people, to enact a special election.
Below is Allevato’s full response: