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Ridgewood Questions Strength of Neighbors' Class-Action Lawsuit

Wyckoff, Glen Rock and Midland Park filed a $3.3 million class action lawsuit claiming Ridgewood funneled water utility revenue into its own municipal operating budget to avoid making hard cuts

Officials in Ridgewood say their neighbors are taking to the media because their case is weak. 

The class action suit filed by Wyckoff, Glen Rock and Midland Park in Bergen County's Superior Court seeks $3.3 million in refunds, charging that Ridgewood has "been engaged in sham accounting to artificially inflate the costs of the Water Utility and decrease the expenses of the village."

On Wednesday, officials from Glen Rock, Midland Park and Wyckoff held a press conference where attorney Joseph Fiorenzo again called for the combined 26 percent rate hikes in 2010 and 2011 to be rescinded and $3.3 million refunded to ratepayers.

"Generally, such tactics are used to inflame the situation due to lack of confidence in the legal merits of their case," Ridgewood Village Attorney Matt Rogers replied in a statement sent to media late Friday night.

Ridgewood in its statement did not address the alleged actions spelled out in the lawsuit.

The suit alleges the village has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to subsidize its police and fire departments, its engineering department, the municipal attorney, expensive health and pension obligations, among others.

The alleged bilking between 2004-2009 led to an operating loss for the utility, Fiorenzo said, adding that had the books been done properly, the utility would have shown a substantial profit.

"Evidence revealed... that there was no 'loss' to justify the extraordinary water rate increase," Fiorenzo wrote in a statement. "Rather, Ridgewood has been bilking the ratepayers of Wyckoff, Glen Rock and Midland Park by having the ratepayers pay for a substantial portion of the operating expenses of the Village of Ridgewood." 

His statements came less than a week after mediation between the parties hit a dead end.

Rogers in his statement said the village would shirk the media spotlight, claiming its preference to continue a "good faith and responsible effort" to keep water prices low for all Ridgewood Water ratepayers.

"On behalf of the Village of Ridgewood and Ridgewood Water, we continue to scrutinize the applicable law and remain confident in our case and the legal process," he wrote.

Officials in the village have publicly maintained they've done nothing wrong and have in the past called the suit "bombastic" but "baseless."

They've been quick to point out Ridgewood Water rates are significantly lower than that of most neighboring utilities and have previously stated the rate hikes were needed to keep the utility financially solvent.

The lawsuit seeks to rescind the dual rate hikes while refunding $1.64 million to Wyckoff, $1.04 million to Glen Rock, and $619,000 to Midland Park.

Sources have said there appears a slim chance the two parties reach a settlement. Once the discovery period concludes, the case is likely to be heard by Judge Menelaos Toskos.

John A. Unglert May 22, 2012 at 11:14 AM
With Ridgewood's blustering I ahve yet to see ANY facts from them. WHAT ARE THEY HIDING I SAY AGAIN ! Possibly a complaint to the PUC is in order also ? I wonder how Ridgewood would handle a FIOA request and take this federal ? I do think I will have my lawyer look into an OPRA request now. As far as any settlement... I doubt that the Wyckoff Townshiop Commitee would put that into the general funds. I would hope that any cour ordered refun come in the form of a credit on future invoices. If Ridgewood has to take that money from their general funds ( which it looks like they have been putting the fees into anyway ) it is shame on them and they can expain it to their taxpayers. Silence by the populus only allow the darkness to continue. A vocal and inquisitive populus sheds light. In the words of Genisis - LET THERE BE LIGHT ! John A. Unglert
John Margroff May 22, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Wyckoff and Midland Park should consider charging Ridgewood Water Co. for the water that comes from the wells in Wyckoff and Midland Park, which is a good portion of Ridgewoods total water supply
LC May 22, 2012 at 02:14 PM
That's relevant!
LC May 22, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I agree with this. I've lived in Wyckoff for 37 years and I'd rather see the revenue from our water bills go into the town in which I live.
John A. Unglert May 22, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I must correct an error I made above. After some investigation I was totally wrong on the subject of returns. What money returned would go drecitly to the rate payer and not to any of the towns. The Court would deceide the methods and vehicle. Of course that assumes the towns prevail, which I am sure they will, from what I have been able to discover. You can read me full corrections here - "Negotiations in Lawsuit Claiming Ridgewood Water Scammed Ratepayers for $3.3M Hit Dead End " http://wyckoff.patch.com/articles/lawsuit-claiming-ridgewood-water-scammed-ratepayers-for-3m-hits-dead-end My apoligies for getting this wrong. John A. Unglert .

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