The Ukiah Valley Sanitation District late Friday filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the city of Ukiah, alleging it has overcharged the district for sewer services and capital projects since 1967.
The district is seeking more than $28 million in restitution, said its attorney, Duncan James. The suit claims breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
City Attorney David Rapport said he cannot comment on the lawsuit because the complaint alone is 110 pages long and it arrived at his office shortly before evening.
The dueling agencies have shared financial responsibility for the city-owned sewer plant since the mid-1950s.
The city is responsible for most costs within city limits while the district is responsible primarily for services just outside city limits. But there is an overlap in the service areas, with about half of the district’s customers living within the city limits.
The city has about 5,150 customer accounts while the district has about 2,540, according to city officials.
The lawsuit alleges the city breached its duties to the district on multiple fronts, including failing to properly calculate the district’s share of operational costs and overcharging the district for its share of a $72 million upgrade and expansion of the wastewater treatment facility.
James contends the city has been overcharging the district for decades.
He said he’s found many discrepancies and bookkeeping that is so poor it’s difficult to calculate how much the district should be paying.
The dispute arose after an independent board was elected to oversee the sanitation district. Before that, the board was comprised of city and county officials.
The agencies’ battles were the subject of two county grand jury reports that noted the relationship “is not working.” It blamed both agencies for the dysfunction but also found the district likely had been shorted.
(You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)