California irrigation district in midst of controversy

October 31, 2013

A California irrigation district is in the midst of a conflict of interest. In July, the board of the Merced Irrigation District reviewed a proposal to build a pipeline with public funds on land that is owned by one of the board members. Other board members, seeing the potential impropriety in this action, sought the opinion of an independent review by a Sacramento law firm.

The firm came back with an opinion that government legislation prohibited public use of funds for the pipeline due to the financial interest of one of the board members. The legal review cost $7,665. More than 50 Merced Irrigation ratepayers want the board member in question to reimburse the district for the legal cost. The board member says he did not ask the board to discuss funding the pipeline and that the proposal was presented to the board by staff members without his knowledge. Emails have been presented that suggest otherwise.

The proposal for the pipeline was part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit and a counter-lawsuit that had been filed by the board member and his neighbor. These lawsuits were over the existing private pipeline that borders both properties but is used to irrigate the board member's almond orchard.

Whether a business is agricultural or high-tech, when a contract dispute leads to business litigation, an attorney may be able to advise a party on the legality of their position. An attorney may review court cases for similar situations and propose alternative courses of action that may support the business' position in the dispute.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Merced Irrigation District pipeline controversy boils over", Rob Parsons, October 26, 2013