Not Above the Law

Commentary – EDHCSD “Spends Tens Of Thousands Of Taxpayers’ Dollars Attempting To Enforce Illegal Exactions”

PLACERVILLE, California (InEDC) Nov 23, 2022 — Larry Weitzman

On Oct. 17 the EDHCSD filed a 117-page lawsuit against El Dorado County and the Auditor-Controller Joe Harn for his alleged failure to place certain EDHCSD Landscape and Lighting District assessments on county property tax bills. It must have cost upwards of $20,000 for the lawyer to prepare and file the lawsuit. Certain EDHCSD directors and the general manager don’t care how much they spend of your money — the district has a current and growing bank balance of over $45 million — they just want more of it.

This lawsuit is fraught with errors and mistakes and should be thrown out of court. I’ll explain.

The statute governing the duty of the auditor to place certain assessments on the tax rolls is Street and Highway Code Section 22641. It reads: “Immediately after the adoption of any resolution confirming a diagram and assessment and by not later than the third Monday in August, the clerk shall file the diagram and assessment, or a certified copy thereof, with the county auditor.” (SHC section 22625 has moved that third Monday in August to Aug. 10.)

“Immediately” means instantly or forthwith (at least by the next business day) after the EDHCSD Board of Directors passed its resolution regarding LLAD assessments, it was required by law to forward or transmit to the auditor the actual resolution or a certified copy thereof for placing on the tax rolls.

If you read the lawsuit, it appears the EDHCSD failed that task. The resolution regarding these LLAD assessments was passed on or about June 9, 2022. Whatever was transmitted to the auditor didn’t happen until Aug. 10 — 62 days later. Not exactly immediately.

Immediately is important so the auditor isn’t besieged with assessments on the last day from all the districts that might file such assessments. It would be an impossible situation, so the Legislature used the term immediately to emphasize the urgency. But the EDHCSD didn’t follow that portion of the law. Strike one.

I have seen copies of the subject assessments transmittals and they were not certified by the clerk of the board, but by a consultant employed by the EDHCSD who certainly is not authorized to certify any board resolutions. So, the copies sent were not certified copies. A board resolution authorizing this person to certify such documents would have been needed and, surprise, no resolution exists. Strike two.

Now let’s get to the meat of the complaint. One of the continuing issues between the EDHCSD and the auditor is the amount of the assessments. On page 13 and 14 of the complaint, the EDHCSD actually admits that after the board resolution “it” wanted to lower some assessments when the plaintiff states, “In each of those assessments, the amount of the actual assessment submitted to Mr. Harn was less than authorized in the district board’s resolution.” Strike three.

The only way an assessment can be reduced or changed after a board resolution is adopted is by another board resolution. Therefore, the documents submitted to the auditor were invalid and he was right to reject them. It would have been an illegal tax assessment.

Taxes are a significant power and responsibility of the government and slipshod assessments are strictly forbidden. The El Dorado County Grand Jury is correct: the EDHCSD has operated in a manner that is actually prohibited by law. But the EDHCSD doesn’t seem to care as it spends tens of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars attempting to enforce illegal exactions. The procedures of the EDHCSD need to be thoroughly investigated and people need to be fired. They are not “above the law.”