Checks and Balances Project (C&BP), a investigative watchdog website, filed two lawsuits Aug. 10 against Bakersfield politicians, alleging that some have been in cahoots with a realtor lobbyist to discontinue a residential energy financing plan, PR Newswire has reported.
The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program was a system that helped property owners finance energy in buildings effectively. The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to have the program discontinued in Bakersfield. Eight days later the Bakersfield City Council also voted to end the program.
The lawsuits were filed after the C&BP learned a realtor lobbyist revealed she secured the votes of local politicians who "are willing to lead the charge on a moratorium of local PACE financing and commit the necessary votes but are asking for political cover." The group also allegedly obtained public documents that suggest members of the Bakersfield City Council were in contact with lobbyists with the goal of discontinuing PACE.
The C&BP lawsuits are attempting to reveal whether the Bakersfield politicians broke public meeting laws by secretly meeting with lobbyists, and to enforce the public's right to obtain records of politicians meeting and making deals with realtor lobbyists. One of the lawsuits is against the Bakersfield City Council, and the other is against the Kern County Board of Supervisors.
Alan Tandy, Bakersfield city manager, says the allegations against the city officials have no validity.
"I do not believe the lawsuit has any merit, at all," Tandy told Northern California Record.
Tandy said Bakersfield city politicians are well within their right to speak and make plans with local lobbyists.
"Bakersfield City Council members meet with constituents — it is a big part of their job," Tandy said. "They met with both PACE lobbyists and realtor lobbyists as they should have on a contested issue to gather facts in an impartial way."
As far as the allegation that city politicians are making decisions regarding the public in a private setting and without the public's knowledge, Tandy said such actions are perfectly lawful.
"California law has recently been clarified to make communications on both personal and public platforms fully disposable and the plaintiffs are fully aware of that and filed duplicate discovery notices which are being responded to," Tandy said. "In light of that, why is this an accusation?"