SOCWA’s lack of transparency calls for audit – Orange County Register

Taxpayers in south Orange County, particularly in Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo and Mission Viejo, need to be aware of some improprieties by the South Orange County Wastewater Authority which could affect their water rates. As the mayor of Laguna Hills, I am particularly concerned about the potential cost impacts to our residents. Years ago, the Moulton Niguel Water District agreed to jointly fund a wastewater treatment facility in Laguna Niguel to help service anticipated growth. Subsequently, MNWD never had to use the facility, but due to its contractual obligations, has paid its fair share of both operational costs and capital improvement costs. With only a few years remaining in the contract, MNWD is requesting a buyout, with all current and future obligations being paid in order to gain that release. This makes sense and is a reasonable and equitable solution to ending the long-term contract. MNWD has no incentive to improve facilities past the term of a contract, which it will not renew. Taxpayers do not need to see their rates from the Moulton Niguel Water District rise in order to pay for a facility that they are not using. MNWD should be allowed to pay all remaining obligations for the entire term of the contract and be released.

SOCWA relies on 10 member agencies (including the one that governs this particular wastewater treatment facility) to fund its $36 million annual budget. MNWD, in an effort to see where, exactly, its capital improvement monies have been spent, and in an effort to know how much it would owe for a fair buyout of its obligations, has simply requested a basic accounting of the public funds it has sent to SOCWA. This has been met with unbelievable reluctance. When asked to provide invoices prior to July 1, 2014, the agency’s controller said the records were unavailable for public inspection because a former employee had deleted the financial documents. The past two annual audits have been submitted late to the relevant…

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