Court rules San Diego should be represented at MWD closed door meetings on Preferential Rights litigation

Short Title
Court rules San Diego should be represented at MWD closed door meetings on Preferential Rights litigation
June 05, 2001

(San Francisco, CA) — In a decision that validates the San Diego County Water Authority’s belief that it is unfair and illegal to exclude San Diego representation at closed door meetings of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a San Francisco Superior Court judge today ruled that a representative of the Water Authority must be present to protect its interests at all future closed door meetings at MWD on the pending preferential rights litigation. The Water Authority is one of 26 member public agencies of MWD.

“We were pleased the court shared our belief that San Diego has as much legal right to be represented at closed door meetings at MWD as other member agencies,” said James Penrod, an attorney with the San Francisco office of the Brobeck law firm, which is serving as special trial counsel to the Water Authority in the litigation.

Penrod said it was unfortunate that San Diego was forced to expend time and resources to reaffirm its seat in the boardroom at MWD. “With this decision behind us, we look forward to returning our focus to the real objective which is to seek court clarification on the amount of water San Diego is legally entitled to from MWD,” said Penrod.

Earlier this year, the Water Authority filed a lawsuit in Superior Court seeking legal clarification on the issue of “preferential rights.” Under preferential rights as MWD calculates them, almost half of the Water Authority’s water supply is subject to claims by other MWD member agencies at any time. In addition, while the Water Authority has a preferential right to less than 15 percent of MWD’s water, it has historically paid 22 percent of its capital and operating costs.

“In an effort to plan for the needs of nearly 3 million San Diego County residents and to support a $117 billion economy, the Water Authority concluded it had a responsibility to rectify the gross imbalance between the financial contribution made to MWD and its water reliability,” said Jim Turner, the Water Authority’s Board Chairman.

In response to the Water Authority’s preferential rights lawsuit, MWD filed a separate legal action, which attempted to exclude San Diego from legal discussions on the matter.

In addition to requiring that a San Diego representative be present at all future closed-door meetings at MWD on the preferential rights lawsuit, the judge also ruled that:
    •    A written agenda outlining what items will be discussed at closed door meetings be provided in advance of all meetings
    •    A recorded transcript be made of every meeting MWD’s lawyers must be present at all meetings
    •    No closed-door meetings take place until July allowing sufficient time for these procedural matters to be resolved

The San Diego County Water Authority is a public agency serving the San Diego region as a wholesale supplier of water from Northern California and the Colorado River. The Water Authority works through its 23 member agencies to provide a safe, reliable water supply to more than 2.9 million county residents.

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