'Secret Society' Responsible For Water Rate Hikes?

San Diego County Water Authority Says Secret Society Includes Members From Metropolitan Water District, Other Water Agencies

The San Diego County Water Authority says a "secret society" may be responsible for San Diego's soaring water rates.

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The SDCWA gave 10News a binder it says contains documents, emails and handwritten notes outlining a shadow government that manipulated the system to artificially inflate the cost of water for county ratepayers.

The cost of water has increased more than 70 percent since 2006. The SDCWA said that spike was created by a secret society, which consisted of members from other Southern California water agencies and the Metropolitan Water District. The MWD is the primary supplier of water to those water agencies and the SDCWA. The emails supplied in the binder contain references to a "secret society meeting" and the "secret society's existence." There are also handwritten notes referring to an "anti-San Diego coalition."

The binder and its contents were presented to an MWD committee on Monday in an attempt to derail another 11 percent rate increase by the MWD. SDCWA officials said the documents prove outside water officials conspired in a backroom meeting to rip off San Diegans.

"Some of it’s going to be a rude awakening," said Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton, who spoke at the meeting. "A lot of them already knew they were doing that."

MWD spokesman Bob Muir told 10News there is no shadow government or secret society. He said the meetings were between staffers with common interests and did not violate the Brown Act. Those common interests include a lawsuit filed by SDCWA against MWD.

Muir said that if SDCWA won that lawsuit, it would negatively impact the other agencies accused of being a part of the secret society.

The lawsuit, which is currently working its way through California's Superior Court, claims the MWD is overcharging San Diego ratepayers to the tune of $40 million in 2012.

On Monday, the committee voted to recommend to the full MWD board to delay a decision to increase the water rates until April. However, the MWD board could disregard that recommendation on Tuesday and approve the rate increase anyway.

"In the longer term, I fully expect them to raise the rates tomorrow in spite of what they've all heard," said Watton.

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