RIALTO - Most people like to show up to fights with friends. But when Rialto finds itself in a court fight that could have a wide impact, it's often all alone.

Rialto is not a rich city. In fact, officials are relying on voters to extend its 8 percent utility tax in November to avoid major budget cuts. But when it comes to taking people to court, the city has spared few expenses.

"Well, I think we have to get a little bit smarter about how we take on legal battles," said City Councilman Joe Baca Jr.

Recent lawsuits - one to get local water contamination cleaned up, another to gain a better theoretical understanding of state law - raise the question: Is Rialto a little trigger happy when it comes to going to court?

Last week, word came from the Fourth District Court of Appeal that the city lost its appeal against its police officers' union. The case involved the minutiae of how a city can go about eliminating its police department.

In September 2005, the Council voted to replace its Police Department with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's office. It went back on that vote less than a year later but kept fighting the lawsuit, even bringing in an outside law firm to help.

The union beat the city in San Bernardino County Superior Court when it filed suit, saying Rialto broke the law in the way it went about abolishing the Police Department.

Councilman Ed Scott said the League of Cities encouraged Rialto to pursue the case.

"Basically, the main reason (Rialto continued with the appeal) is because it's a case that could affect a lot of cities," he said Friday.

Baca disagreed.

"I have a hard time paying for legal fees when the issue was already moot," he said.

And then there's perchlorate, the toxic substance contaminating the local drinking water.

A number of agencies are affected by perchlorate, but Rialto officials say they've been hit the worst and decided to clean up the Rialto Basin on their own. So instead of forming a coalition with those agencies or asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for help, the city decided to go after dozens of polluters in court and gather all the evidence against the suspected polluters on its own.

So far, that's cost the city and its water department customers, who are paying a perchlorate fee on their bills, at least $15 million.

"They're not experienced or in the business of cleaning up the basin," said Barry Groveman, an attorney for the West Valley Water District, another local water purveyor.

Rialto's job is to provide clean water to its customers while other state and federal agencies exist to take care of extensive water pollution, he said.

Councilwoman Winnie Hanson said the city has a special responsibility to pursue the suspected polluters in part because the source of the pollution is in Rialto.

"We knew we had to," she said.

Contact writer Jason Pesick at (909) 386-3861 or via e-mail at jason.pesick@sbsun.com.


BS Ranch Perspective

It looks like the final word came down on the last bit of news regarding the Rialto Police Department/San Bernardino Sheriff Department's Battle for the Rights to serve as the Law Enforcement Protection for the people in the City of Rialto!!   The behind the Closed Door Deal that Ed Scott, & Joe Sampson did with the Sheriff of San Bernardino never was a done deal, even though it was a close call back in 2005, when the fight was pretty close. The only thing was that Owen's is not as good of a lawyer as he thinks that he is!! He showed that he was only good at slowing and interrupting and calling people names during a city council meeting. It was totally Embarrassing for the Representatives of the City Council, as they spent the next meeting appologising over and over, and then for the majority of the meeting when the public was allowed to make a presentation the cities Council was asked to vacate the meeting to not be so disruptive and cause so many arguments in violation of the Brown Act!!

The whole problem was that Owen's was not doing his job well, and he lost every court case that he had when in court against the lawyers that were hired by the Rialto Benefit Association. Owen's didn't know if he was coming or going and he was running these long boring City Council meetings to show how the Crime was worse in Rialto since they had not been able to vote the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department into the Enforcement Roll for Rialto, however all the information that Owen's was pushing was all false and was a lie. The Crime Rate, that week according to the FBI Statictics had gone down, proving that Owens was telling a total lie in the whole thing. The whole 2.5 hours that he tied up to keep the People that wanted to make a presentation to the city, was all that much more later and people at home were in bed and well they would miss it.

Well now the Appeal is done, and the Rialto Police Benefit Association is now the sole carrier of the benefits and the role of the sole of the Police Departments Up and Comings..

Now, The City Council is looking to another small problem, which for the City over all is a HUGE PROBLEM!! The Utility Tax that they are trying to despretly seek will be hard to get, there are a lot of Rialto Citizens that feel that they have mishandled the money that they received from the Current Utility TAX.

The City Council Ed Scott, Debra Robertson, all say that they have been receiving all the money that they need to work on the filtration system to get the current wells that are shut down back up and running by charging the people a current PERCHLORATE FEE on their water bill of $15.00 dollars, and I have to that if you have almost 100,000 people paying $15.00 a month on their water bill for PERCHLORATE PROBLEMS..then what are they doing with the money that they are getting from there. Is hard to tell, They are Raising approxemently $1.47 Million Dollars a month for the Fee's that they are charging for the Perchlorate clean up fee, on the water bill, RE: $15.00 a bill @ approx 94,000 people. That is quite a sum of money that they are holding on to, and most of it is more then likely going directly into the pockets of the Lawyers that are handling the case that shouldn't be, since the EPA should have been the ones contacted first and they would have been the ones that were right there to clean it up, and if anyone that would be responsable for any wrong doing, then the EPA would be cleaning it up, and billing the right people!! With no courts, and no delayed EXPENSIVE METHODS OF REPAIR!!

It is Just another way that Owen's has given his Client, the City of Rialto BAD ADVICE!!

BS Ranch