Closed-door session violated Brown Act, attorney says



The West Kern Water District Board of Directors voted to increase water rates Tuesday night by 10 percent, costing the average water customer an additional  $20 to $30 per year, Board president Steve Steinhoffer said.

That vote came 24 hours after a closed-session meeting to adjust the proposed rate increase that a media attorney said violated California’s open meeting laws.

The board, citing “potential litigation,” met behind closed doors Monday night instead to scale back the amount of money users will pay for going over the base rate – 1,000 cubic feet.

The district’s legal counsel, Linda Alvarado, defended the closed session because “We felt there was a pending threat of litigation so we had to discuss it in closed session.”

However, Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association said just the possibility of being sued is no justification for discussing the rate increases behind closed doors.

He called the district’s illegal meeting “an egregious” violation of the Brown Act.

(See Friday’s Midway Driller for a complete report on the board’s action and the reaction to the controversial closed-door meeting.)