NOVATO – The embattled Novato Sanitary District – already faced with a voter-inspired referendum to overturn its decision to hire a foreign company to run its wastewater operations – has been notified that a recent decision to make an “end-run” around the voters is patently “illegal.”
The NSD board’s decision April 26 to pay Veolia Water – whose multi-million-dollar contract is up for a vote June 8 by the voters – violates the law because it is “re-passing a materially identical ordinance as an interim measurer (prior to) the referendum,” said the law firm of Shut, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP, representing California Healthy Communities Network, one of the sponsors of Measure F on the Novato ballot.
NSD authorized up to $50,000 for Veolia to develop “high priority” Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which in effect implements the contract subject to a vote June 8, according to the law firm, which asserts that authorization is illegal.
“(The) District should rescind the $50,000 contract augmentation for SOP development and wait until the results of the referendum election are certified before taking any further action to implement the Veolia contract,” said Catherine Engberg of the San Francisco law firm in a letter to NSD Friday.
She explained that the court cases are clear, including one in nearby San Anselmo (Lindelli v. Town of San Anselmo (2003) 11 Cal.App.4th 1099, 1109), that interim contracts like this are unlawful. The courts have ruled that a legislative body cannot continuously amend the contract at issue because it would “deprive voters” of their rights, she said.
Ms Engberg noted courts have said interim contracts are illegal where work to be performed is “essentially the same.” In fact, she said, the $50,000 Veolia augmentation is for the “identical” work called for in the Veolia contract before voters on June 8 ballot.
“The District may not circumvent the referendum by awarding the same task to Veolia as part of this interim contract augmentation,” Ms Engberg wrote.