Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Kansas Corporation Commission and its commissioners individually for allegedly violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA).
Taylor says, “The action seeks injunctive relief concerning the rate increase for (customers of) Howison Heights, Inc. (water district), previously approved by the commission,”. With the injunction, Taylor wishes to void action taken by the KCC that resulted in a “substantial rate increase to consumers” of the water district.
The Howison Heights, Inc. water district is located in Salina.
Taylor adds, “The lawsuit also seeks other relief consistent with the KOMA,”.
With these actions, Taylor wants to ensure, “that both the statutory provisions of the KOMA are adhered to,” and “governmental transparency” is enforced.
A consumer watchdog agency, the Citizens Utility Ratepayers Board (CURB), filed a complaint earlier this month, stating that the KCC approved the water rate increase without a public vote.
CURB says this approval was done through a process called “pink sheeting,” which allows commissioners to sign off on decisions without holding a public meeting.
CURB alleges “pink sheeting” violates the KOMA, which generally requires public business to be conducted at public meetings.
CURB attorney David Springee said when the violation came to light, CURB requested an investigation by Taylor and Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
Springee says, “Water customers in Salina are quite disturbed about what happened. Ultimately, we’re all looking for an answer.
“There is a troubled water utility out there and you can’t keep simply throwing customer money at it.
“We’re looking for a solution. KCC is looking for a solution to how we get water to these customers, safe and affordably, and keep the system going.
Springee said however, “We think it’s important that the D.A. or the Attorney General, or all of us together, get some clarity about what is required.
“I don’t want the commission violating the Open Meetings Act and I’m sure they don’t intend to violate the act.”
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