Kranz takes battle to court of public opinion

By: Gloria Beverage
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Colfax City Manager Bruce Kranz wants the public to understand what the city is facing. Last week, Kranz posted an opinion piece, “Out of town lawyers out to clean out Colfax,” on the city’s website. Copies also went to Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board members. The council declared on May 12, Kranz wrote, “that the city faced unreasonable hardship, even bankruptcy, if it were not allowed to make installment payments on massive monetary judgments impending against the city. The citizens and taxpayers of Colfax deserve to know the truth about lawsuits against the city.” In April, a Federal judge denied the city’s appeal of contempt charges in the 2008 settlement agreement with Allen and Nancy Edwards and the Oakland-based Environmental Law Foundation. Under terms of the settlement agreement, the city agreed to cease the release of polluted sewage into Smuther’s Ravine, the creek that flows through the Edwards property into the North Fork of the American River. However, the contempt charges filed earlier this year allege the city violated the agreement at least 4,283 times — allegations ranging from sewage spills to a lack of documentation on the operation of the plant. Although the court deferred a decision on “reasonable attorney fees” until July 1, the plaintiff’s attorneys have now asked the court to order the city to immediately pay $186,203 in attorney and expert fees as well as costs. Lawyers for Clean Water argue the city’s “refusal to pay fees and costs represents a prioritization of its currently available funding.” They point to the city’s recent decision to build a new swimming pool. Kranz counters that argument is misleading. “The swimming pool is being built with funds that can only be used for that purpose,” he said. “The fees Mr. Cooper is demanding must come from unrestricted funds. In taking the argument public, Kranz hopes to make taxpayers aware of the negative impact lawsuits have on local governments. And “other agencies that have similar problems need to be aware of what’s going on,” he continued. Now the city faces a court battle that is “going to cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight,” he said. For Allen Edwards that is unfortunate. "If they had stopped and taken responsibility, it would have been much less," he said.