FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media contact: Russell Lahodny, (714) 758-0222
Anaheim Chamber Questions Whether Water Officials Violated State Law
Inquiries Sent to OCWD Regarding Committee Members’ Actions on Power Plant and Possible “Brown Act” Violations
Anaheim, Calif. (Nov. 25, 2013) – The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce has requested the Orange County Water District (OCWD) determine whether recent comments and actions taken by three members of the Board of Directors of the water district may have violated the State’s “Open Meetings” law – The Ralph M. Brown Act. The concerns are related to current negotiations between OCWD and Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) regarding the District’s plan to lease surplus property – the Ball Road Basin – to CPV for development of a 300-600 megawatt power plant in the city of Anaheim, on the banks of the Santa Ana River and across from the city of Orange.
The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce helped form the Stop the Power Plant coalition, a local group of residents and businesses that oppose CPV’s proposed power plant as inappropriate for that particular site. The coalition has stated its support for power infrastructure development, but said that appropriate sites must be selected and subject to local planning and approval processes.
The Brown Act violation stems from a meeting that took place on October 25, 2013. Anaheim Chamber President and CEO Todd Ament and members of the coalition had scheduled a meeting with OCWD Director Denis Bilodeau to make their case for opposition, as part of a series of meetings with individual OCWD Directors. To the surprise of Ament and coalition members, Bilodeau brought two other OCWD directors, Steve Sheldon and Roger Yoh, to the meeting on his own initiative. It was during this lunch that Bilodeau commented that he believed CPV’s proposed power plant had only a five percent chance of being approved by the California Energy Commission and that the OCWD stood to earn revenue merely by leasing the property to CPV in the interim.
Ament referenced this statement during public comments at the November 15 special meeting of the OCWD Board of Directors, to which more than 100 people who live and work near the proposed power plant site came to show their opposition. Ament’s remark prompted Director Sheldon to state that Director Bilodeau made those comments “off the record.”
“Given California’s strong record of support for public meetings and deliberations of important issues, I was taken aback by Director Sheldon’s comments that I should not repeat publicly what Director Bilodeau had said to me at our meeting.”
Subsequent to the November 15 meeting, the Chamber discovered that the three OCWD directors who discussed the CPV proposal with them on October 25 serve on the district’s Property Management Committee, and in fact constitute a quorum of the five-member committee. This very committee also met on November 15, 2013, before the Special Board meeting and also discussed the Ball Road Basin property.
The Chamber and others have argued the need for additional energy generation in California, but claim the site being considered by the Orange County Water District is not appropriate given that is located near homes and adjacent to many of Orange County’s retail and entertainment areas, including the Honda Center, Anaheim Auto Center, Angels Stadium, the (Orange) Stadium Promenade with its multi-screen theater and several restaurants, and the under-construction ARTIC transit center. The coalition noted that City of Anaheim recently built a power plant in an industrial zoned area.
In his letter to the OCWD’s General Counsel, Joel Kuperberg, Ament stated in part:
“Given that Mr. Sheldon has asked publicly that the comments made at the Chamber’s meeting with a majority of the OCWD Property Management Committee be treated as an ‘off the record’ meeting, please advise how the Orange County Water District interprets the request by Mr. Sheldon and the meeting held October 25, 2013 in the context of California’s Ralph M. Brown Act, commonly referred to as the ‘Open Meetings’ Law…Additionally, while you are considering this apparent violation of the Brown Act, please advise if it is appropriate for the District to continue considering this proposed lease while this matter is being reviewed.”
The Water District is expected to consider the lease again at their next meeting on
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The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce ∙ www.anaheimchamber.org
Representing more than 8000 businesses in the city, the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to Building a Strong Local Economy, Promoting and Branding the Anaheim Community, Creating Networking and Business Development Opportunities, and Representing the Interests of Business in Government and Political Issues.