El Dorado County auditor-controller facing lawsuit
The El Dorado Hills Community Services District is taking its public fight with county Auditor-Controller Joe Harn to court.
Last month the EDHCSD filed a lawsuit against Harn, who purposely left Lighting and Landscaping Assessment District fees charged by the CSD off property tax bills. At that time, the auditor said he took action after noticing discrepancies in the assessments between what CSD consultants submitted and what the EDHCSD Board of Directors approved. He then asked CSD officials for a letter “indicating that the CSD board was responsible for the accuracy and lawfulness of the assessments,” as it had done the prior year. No letter was received.
“The CSD sued Harn in 2017 related to the CSD’s failure to comply with the Mitigation Fee Act,” states a news release from the Auditor-Controller’s Office. “One of the outcomes of that litigation is that the CSD now is required to indemnify Harn and the county from any errors (in) the CSD’s … fees under the Mitigation Fee Act.”
EDHCSD officials see it differently. In October the district posted a statement on its website claiming, “… the requirement of the county auditor (the indemnification letter) is not based in any law or fact. Rather it is about his office being bothered by questions from the public; a basis in conjecture of a slipshod civil grand jury report about LLADs, and; his concern for the district charging a lessor assessment than the maximum permitted by resolution of the district board of directors.”
A letter sent directly to the auditor accuses Harn of “political pandering” and called him “a bully on the playground.”
Fall 2022 property tax bills sent out excluded assessments for more than 20 EDHCSD LLADs, an approximately $1.4 million loss for the district. EDHCSD General Manager Kevin Loewen earlier said scheduled upkeep will continue as usual in those LLADs.
Harn received a copy of the lawsuit this week, calling it “a colossal waste of money.”
“I was served a 117-page document (the lawsuit) and I haven’t read the whole thing,” he shares in his news release. “I did notice a significant error right up front. The suit states that the CSD board voted unanimously to charge its residents these assessments; actually, Director Heidi Hannaman voted no. Interestingly, the CSD’s GM signed a verification under penalty of perjury indicating that he is responsible for the accuracy of the statements in the lawsuit and he believes the facts are correct.”
The Mountain Democrat has reached out to Loewen for additional comment regarding the lawsuit.
If/when supplemental property tax bills are sent out, the cost is estimated at $60,000. Harn told the Mountain Democrat the county would initially incur the expense and then recover the cost from LLAD funds received.
All this legal wrangling could have been avoided had the CSD signed the letter, he added.
“If the CSD board isn’t responsible for the assessments who is?” Harn asked.
The EDHCSD recently announced its board is considering the formation of a LLAD Advisory Committee, which will review budgeted vs. actual costs, discuss issues with underfunded LLADs, delve into LLAD financials and intricate operations and serve as a liaison between the LLAD community and the board of directors. A workshop for potential committee members has been scheduled at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16. Those interested are asked to email EDHCSD Director of Administration & Finance Teri Gotro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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