By Eric Heinz
Per a request by state Sen. Patricia Bates and Assemblyman Bill Brough, both of whom represent San Clemente and Dana Point, an independent audit of the financial procedures of the South Orange County Wastewater Authority (SOCWA) will be conducted.
A legislative bipartisan committee approved the request on Wednesday, June 28.
The request comes after the Moulton Niguel Water District, a participant of SOCWA, accused the district of having $1 million in unaccounted funds, a lack of transparency and other accusations, according to a press release from Moulton Niguel.
But officials with SOCWA said Moulton Niguel has failed to make payments of about $900,000 for repairs on a water treatment facility in Laguna Beach, the Coastal Treatment Plant.
“They haven’t paid their bills dating back more than one year,” said Steve Greyshock, a spokesperson for SOCWA. “Those members have been asking for a long time. After about a year, member agencies were forced to ask them to stop being delinquent. There are projects that are being delayed because there’s missing money. It’s vitally important that projects continue.”
Greyshock said the Moulton Niguel district no longer requires the services of the plant and therefore did not want to pay for the repairs.
“They’re basically asking to dissolve their contract and exit their agreement, and that’s fine, but other agencies are asking them to pay their bills,” Greyshock said.
The SOCWA serves about 600,000 people in South Orange County, which includes San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano. Moulton Niguel currently owns about 30 percent equity of the treatment plant.
Both parties appear to be eager to see the results of the audit. Greyshock said SOCWA welcomes it.
A statement from Moulton Niguel also shows support of the financial review.
“While the audit was met with ardent opposition by SOCWA, we are very pleased to see that the audit is moving forward,” said Joone Lopez, General Manager of the Moulton Niguel Water District. “We appreciate the tremendous support from Senator Bates, Assemblyman Brough and all of the JLAC members in advancing public transparency, fiscal accountability and effective governance.”
According to the press release from Moulton Niguel, the audit is expected to take about six months.