Monday, April 30, 2007

Audit of Cleanup Costs Set....Rialto Efforts to clean Water to Get Review...

Audit of cleanup costs set
Rialto efforts to clean water to get a review
By Jason Pesick, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 04/23/2007 12:00:00 AM PDT

RIALTO - With the tab climbing to the $20million mark, the City Council has agreed to get an audit of its expenditures to clean up drinking water contaminated with perchlorate.
The city's cleanup strategy has relied heavily on lawsuits against dozens of corporations and government entities it has accused of contributing to the problem, which could cost $200million to $300million to clean up.

"We need to assure the public that it's being spent wisely and properly," said Councilman Ed Scott, who said he called for the audit.

The audit is only intended to make sure no money is being wasted, not to question the city's legal strategy, Scott said.

At a recent council meeting, Councilman Joe Baca Jr. said the warrant resolution the council was supposed to approve showed an identical payment being made twice.

That turned out not to be the case, but Scott said he thinks the audit is important "to make sure billing and invoicing has been done properly." He said he also wants to make sure the attorneys are actually working the hours they say they are and that more than one attorney or consultant are not doing the same work.

Baca has also complained that he doesn't know exactly where

the money is going. The city does not disclose all that the law firms are paid in the warrant resolutions to keep that information from the parties it is suing, said City Attorney Bob Owen.
The audit comes at a critical time during the city's efforts to clean up the chemical, which can be harmful to humans by interfering with the thyroid gland. In July, the city's legal team is scheduled to argue before the State Water Resources Control Board at hearings that could force three corporations to clean up much of the contamination.

"Now is not the time to blink," said Owen.

He said he is confident the audit will show the money is being spent properly.

In addition to the state board hearings, in 2004 the city sued 42 entities, including the Defense Department, San Bernardino County and a number of corporations, to get them to clean up the contamination. Last year, Rialto filed an additional suit against the county in state court.

Although Scott insisted that the majority of the council still supports the lawsuits and that the audit to be conducted by the firm McGladrey & Pullen LLP will have a narrow focus, Baca has used the opportunity to call into question the city's strategy.

"I'm concerned about there being a blank check out there for the attorneys," Baca said.

He said he wants to know exactly where the money is being spent, whether it is the wisest use of city resources and if there are other ways besides the lawsuits to clean up the perchlorate. He said he also wants to find out if city staff can do some of the work the city is paying attorneys and consultants to do.

Mayor Pro Tempore Winnie Hanson agreed with Scott that the audit is narrowly intended to make sure the money is being spent properly.

"It's not about the strategy," she said.

The $20 million number includes the cost of the attorneys, experts to investigate the contamination, treatment systems to remove perchlorate from the drinking water and an informational campaign to keep the community informed. The number reflects the amount the city has spent since 1998, Owen said.

The city's water department charges a perchlorate fee to its customers to provide funds for the effort. If the city wins its suits, it will reimburse the ratepayers for those costs.

A few months ago, the council transferred $5million from the General Fund to speed up the federal lawsuit, but Scott said the lawsuits have not been sped up, and he doesn't want the city to pay an additional $5million every year.

Before the audit begins, Scott and Hanson, the members of the council's perchlorate committee, will meet with the auditors on Monday to discuss the scope of the audit. The cost of the audit should be clearer at that point.

Baca, who was elected to the council in November, has been critical of the city's strategy to clean up the perchlorate. He said the city should consider scaling back the lawsuits.

Other members of the council and Owen have said that the litigation is necessary in order to make sure the polluters - not taxpayers - pay to clean up the perchlorate.

Owen also argues that without the information the city has uncovered through the lawsuits, it would not have the evidence necessary to convince the state water board to order the polluters to clean up the perchlorate.

Owen warned against "playing politics with this important public-health issue."

He said he is also concerned the suspected polluters will think there is dissension on the council over whether to continue pursuing them right before the state board hearings.

"It's very irresponsible for somebody to begin doing that," he said.

Contact writer Jason Pesick at (909) 386-3861 or via e-mail at


BS Ranch Perspective:

I Seriously have come to the conclusion that Baca is the only one that is on the City Council that has the brains to protect the assets that the Taxpayers of Rialto has built up. Ed Scot, and his followers have voted out already $20 Million, to the Attorney's (Owen being one that has probably benefited the most) and experts to testify in court against the Businesses, County of San Bernardino, & The Federal Government on top of this whole big mountain that they feel all are responsible in a sort of way for the contamination of Perchlorate in the Water Table, Under the grounds of North Rialto and what used to be the County of San Bernardino some 15 to 20 years ago, before Rialto took that area in through annexation!

Baca, can see that the Court might, & that is one huge might rule, that the people that Rialto is suing is only responsible for the cost of removing the Perchlorate, and not the Lawyer Fees, or Expert Costs, Which is more than likely more then $7 Million since they are paying the Lawyer's alone @ more then an estimated $165.00 an hour to sit, study, prepare, Prepare Witnesses, and find the experts for Court to Testify! Not to for get that the Experts are getting paid an estimated $135 an hour to testify, or test and prepare for court.

None of what they are doing is cheap, The city should have listened to the County of San Bernardino at the beginning, of the whole business, there was a whole payback, and help plan that is and was to be helpful to cities that are in this situation, being as Rialto, and San Bernardino County, is not the only Area to be afflicted with this problem! The other area's that had Perchlorate Ground Water Contamination, there was help, that was given to those cities and Counties to assist with their Filtration systems, through Grants, and the like. It doesn't pay for the whole Amount that is needed to get the filter's on board, but See that is what Rialto is after they want to not try to get any assistance from the Federal Government.

In order to get reimbursement for the filtration systems, you must purchase and install them, and apply for a Grant for reimbursement, similar to that of a Solar Panel System install on a Private Home. The Home Owner must install the Solar System to get the grants and Tax Relief for the Solar System.

Baca is the only one on the City of Rialto's City Council that is working with the people that he is serving. He is wanting to save money in the long run, becuase the way that they are going, the only one that is going to benefit is that of Owen, and his people that he hires to help him fight this in court! This paycheck will go nicely along with the $3/4 Million dollars that he already gets in one year from the Rialto City Taxpayers for siting through City Council Meetings and Closed Sessions Giving Legal Advice. Wow, What a guy, In this I don't know who is worse. Ed Scott for rushing to give the money away to Owen, or the rest of the council that follows Scot like he is the guy that knows the what of it.

Ed Scot was wrong with the Contract with the Sheriff Department for Law Enforcement, and he is wrong here now!!

BS Ranch

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