The Glendale Electric Rate Increase of 2013; A Tale of Deception and Deceit
Here is a little history about The City of Glendale, the Glendale Coalition for Better Government, and a law suit.
In July 2013, a large group of citizens spoke in front of the Glendale City Council opposing an Electric rate increase that compounded over
five years to more than a 32% increase. The increase in fees was quietly designed to provide money for an illegal transfer to the City’s General Fund, where it would be used illegally to pay for services unrelated to providing the electric service. (Money going into the General Fund is normally raised through taxes. But, a poll in Glendale showed the voters were reluctant to vote to raise taxes, so the Council cleverly sought to raise funds without a vote using an illegal Utility rate increase, and then a transfer.)
Resident, and Professor of Law, Harry Zavos, representing the community, went in front of the City Council numerous times and stated that the increase should not proceed because the fees would be used to pay for costs unrelated to the electric service provided as required by State Law. That increase and transfer would be a violation of Article XIII (c) of the State Constitution. Councilman Weaver’s reply was, “If you don’t like it, sue us”.
The Glendale Coalition for Better Government was formed as a non profit corporation and grew as a result of citizen concern over the lack of responsiveness and accountability in City government.
Within a few months of the electric fee increase, and having a non responsive Council, the Coalition had no option but to file a lawsuit. After numerous delays by the City Attorney’s office and the City hiring a costly outside attorney, in 2017, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled the rate increase and the transfers were in fact illegal and directed that almost sixty million dollars be returned to the Utility customers.
In May 2017, instead of settling the lawsuit and stopping the transfer, Councilman Najarian, with the help of the City Manager and the City Attorney convinced two other Council Members into appealing the Court’s decision.
Most probably, the City’s appeal will fail and only result in a delay in the return of the excessive fees to the electric customers, an increase in accumulated damages the City will have to pay, as well as an increase in contracted attorney fees charged to the City. Sadly, all those additional costs would be paid with tax payer’s money; money, which instead could have gone to pay for Public Safety, Parks, Libraries, Public Works and other important City functions.
But after all, why should Mr. Najarian, the City Attorney or the City Manager care? They would not be paying from their pockets for any damages and attorney fees, nor will they face any consequences. The opinion of the Coalition’s attorneys based on similar law suits in other cities, is that the City will lose the appeal, and only unnecessarily cost the tax payers more money.
There is also the potential of the Appeal Court ruling in favor of additional damages in the law suit, increasing the total award to the utility customers to well over the existing sixty million dollar judgment.
Had City Council listened to the Citizens of Glendale and to Law Professor Harry Zavos back in 2013, the matter would have never gone to court and the City would not be facing millions of dollars in damages to be paid by the tax payers.
Note that the City was unwilling to have any negotiation with the Coalition for a reasonable settlement.
Please note that the members of the Coalition are all volunteer and residents of Glendale. It would be foolish for them to act to reduce the services and public safety in the City where they live. They only seek to insure that the City Management acts within the law. Any loss of services as a result of the City’s illegal action is wholly the responsibility of the City Council and City Staff for acting after repeated notifications they were acting illegally, refusing to negotiate, and then exercising poor management and fiscally irresponsible budgeting.