Earlier this month, I wrote about the comparatively low priority the Mesa Water District places on transparency. As it turns out, several days earlier the Costa Mesa Sanitary District had filed a transparency lawsuit alleging Mesa Water was withholding public records that had been requested by the CMSD.
The California Public Record Act request and subsequent lawsuit come against the backdrop of Mesa Water’s persistent and largely unwelcome courtship of the CMSD, with which Mesa Water wants to consolidate. On June 2, the CMSD filed suit in Orange County Superior Court seeking early versions of a consultant study that Mesa Water had commissioned in 2016 to bolster its case for consolidating with CMSD by claiming it would produce savings for residents in their overlapping service areas. The study, performed by Arcadis U.S. Inc., was used by Mesa Water as ammunition in selling voters on supporting Measure TT, an advisory question it placed on the November 2016 ballot on whether or not the two special districts should merge.
CMSD vigorously disputes the Arcadis study’s conclusions, and seeks the earlier drafts of the study. General Manager Scott Carroll doesn’t believe Mesa Water provided the CMSD with all documents it requested, hence the lawsuit. The sanitary district doesn’t share Mesa Water’s enthusiasm for a merger, and its lawsuit contends a “public review of those earlier studies would provide insight into the process and whether the conclusions are valid” as it pertains to alleged savings from consolidation.