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Milpitas resident withdraws lawsuit over nixed water rate petition
by Ian Bauer, Aliyah Mohammed, L
May 05, 2017 | 2818 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
rob means
rob means

For undisclosed reasons, resident Rob Means has dismissed his 2016 lawsuit against former mayor Jose Esteves and two council members that alleged they violated state election code and the democratic process by refusing to put a ballot initiative up for voter review last November.

Esteves and then councilwomen Debbie Indihar Giordano and Marsha Grilli were the three defendants named in Means’ suit for their “yes” votes to take no action on a resident-backed water rate initiative aimed at returning the city to a tiered-water rate system instead of the uniform rate implemented by the city, after many residents complained their water bills increased dramatically when the new rates took effect in December 2015.

During the April 18 City Council meeting, Milpitas City Attorney Christopher Diaz announced to the public that after Means filed his lawsuit in October 2016 a judge directed both parties to meet with a “neutral evaluator.”

“Both parties did meet with that neutral evaluator and she evaluated that case,” Diaz told the council. “After that process played out Rob Means has agreed to voluntarily dismiss his lawsuit against the city.”

According to court documents, Means formally dismissed his lawsuit against the city on April 17. For his part, Means would not respond to questions over his decision to dismiss the case or a confidentiality agreement he signed with the city.

“The confidentiality agreement I signed prevents me from disclosing further details,” Means told the Post via email last week.

The nixed water rate petition came one year after the California Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 to find the city of San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water rate system illegal — where residents who used more water were charged more money — cities across the state including Milpitas opted to dissolve their tiered water rate systems in favor of uniform water rates.

The San Juan Capistrano decision only allows tiered systems where customers are paying the actual cost of buying and providing water.

At an Aug. 2, 2016 council meeting, Diaz told the council that it could choose to adopt the tiered water rates suggested by residents, choose to put the initiative to voters in November, or take no action at all because the tiered rates being suggested by the three residents — Robert Marini, Jennifer Strohfus and Martin Skelson — were deemed “illegal.”

Staff writer Aliyah Mohammed contributed to this story.

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