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F.C. Council Votes 6-0 to Deny All Requests for Refunds from Water System

The Falls Church City Council acted tersely based on a statement read by Vice Mayor David Snyder tonight to vote unanimously to instruct the city manager to deny all requests and demands for refunds from the City’s water system. Snyder’s statement said that all such requests and demands, some by legal action or by written demands, are based on a misreading of the court order rendered against the City water system recently.

In his remarks tonight, Snyder said the following:

“I much prefer dialog to litigation with regard to other local governments. That is not the case here. Late in 2010 and early 2011, the City received a number of requests for refunds from City water customers. Tonight, the City Council will be voting on a motion to direct the City Manager to deny these refund requests. I will be supporting this motion on these claims for the following reasons:

“The refund requests, we believe, stem from an incorrect reading of a Fairfax Circuit Court ruling last year in the case of Fairfax County Water Authority v. City of Falls Church. That ruling enjoined the City from “transferring any moneys from its water fund to its general fund for purposes unrelated to the water system, including the ‘management fee’ transfer for the City’s Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010.”

“The ruling did not call for refunds.

“The City disagrees with this ruling as it runs counter to the clear language of the City Charter, as adopted by the Virginia General Assembly, and to established practice across the state. Nonetheless, the City has complied with it in all respects, and remains in full compliance today.

“Today, there are several cases pending in court where plaintiffs have come forward to demand refunds. In addition, the City has received letters from other customers requesting refunds.

“After discussing the merits of these claims with the City Attorney and outside legal counsel, we believe there are issues here that are important and have not been specifically addressed by the courts, and that have important implications for the financial management of the City and for public service utilities statewide.

“For the City to make any payment of public funds to a private party outside the bounds of established law and precedent would be irresponsible.

“The City has viable, legitimate legal defenses to the claims of customers seeking refunds. It is the Council’s responsibility to protect the City’s financial interests on behalf of its water utility ratepayers and the taxpayers of the City, and this motion does that.

“Make no mistake, our highest priority is providing safe and reliable water on equal terms to our customers, whether they live in the City or in the County.”