Answers To Three Common Questions About Local Government Lawsuits
At Benink & Slavens, LLP, it is our mission to hold local California governments accountable when it comes to spending your hard-earned tax dollars. When a town or city government or special district diverts utility funds or assesses “fees” to avoid having taxpayers vote on them, we are here to help.
How are Propositions 218 and 26 enforced?
While Propositions 218 and 26 are enshrined in our state constitution (articles XIII C and XIII D) no state agency enforces their restrictions. Compelling the government to comply falls on interested citizens who care about how their elected officials manage the funds with which they are entrusted. Teamed with knowledgeable attorneys, taxpayer and ratepayer advocates challenge these constitutional violations through civil lawsuits in state court. We have filed cases in over a dozen counties throughout California.
What kind of remedies are available in a Proposition 218 or 26 case?
If a case is successful, a court may declare a fee to be an illegal tax and/or issue an injunction that requires the local government to cease its illegal conduct (i.e. collecting the illegal tax.) If funds were illegally transferred (i.e. from a utility fund to a general fund), the court may order the return of those funds. In some instances, we prosecute cases as a class action for refund and if successful, the court may order refunds directly to ratepayers and taxpayers.
You can read more about how we protect taxpayers in regard to Proposition 218 or Proposition 26.
What types of cases have you taken and won?
We have been representing California ratepayers and taxpayers since 2006 when we filed a class action lawsuit against the city of San Diego challenging illegal sewer fees. In that case, $40 million was returned to residential ratepayers. We have won substantial refunds for electric ratepayers, water credits, and water and sewer fee return of transfers. We have been successful in litigating cases where city fees were put into a general fund instead of used for what was promised or for what these funds were earmarked. Our cases have involved the cessation of electric rate surcharges, fire assessment challenges and many more.
When It’s Time To Fight City Hall, Call Us
Attorneys Eric Benink and Vince Slavens have a combined 28-plus years of experience representing the rights of taxpayers. We are ready to take on local governments on your behalf when they violate the law. Call 619-369-3076 to speak with an experienced attorney and find out more. In many of our cases, we recover our attorney’s fees from the local government when we are successful, meaning you don’t pay anything. You may send us a confidential email to discuss your issues and we will get back to you.