An investigative group associated with the clean energy industry issued a letter Monday accusing the Kern County Board of Supervisors with violating the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state's open meetings law.
The two-page letter from attorney Karl Olson of Cannata, O’Toole, Fickes and Lamazan said supervisors violated the law by voting to eliminate the Property Assessed Clean Energy financing program in unincorporated Kern County on July 11.
Olson is representing the Checks and Balances Project, a blog that Executive Director Scott Peterson describes as “an investigative watchdog that holds lobbyists and others who block the growth of a sustainable economy accountable to the public.”
Olson supports the group's claim by pointing to a statement in a grant application submitted by the Bakersfield Association of Realtors to the National Association of Realtors seeking funding for an anti-PACE lobbying campaign.
The statement, by Realtor representative Kim Schaefer, says she has talked to “local elected officials” who are willing to “commit the necessary votes” to place a moratorium on PACE financing loans.
The PACE program provides funding for residential and commercial renovations that are energy-efficient including windows, air conditioning units and solar panel installation.
Some Realtors have opposed the program because it is funded by a lien on the property taxes associated with the improved property.
That can complicate the sale or refinance of the property, they claim.
Spokespeople for the companies that administer the PACE program raised the same concerns prior to last Tuesday’s meeting and sent requests for public records to investigate the claim.
The Checks and Balance Project sent similar requests to the County of Kern on Monday, prior to Olson’s letter.
Interim Kern County Counsel Mark Nations said the letter is a procedural step needed before a group can sue the Kern County Board of Supervisors.
Olson’s letter clearly states his next step would be to sue to invalidate the vote to kill the PACE program in unincorporated Kern County.
Nations said he is collecting documents to respond to the request for records from the PACE administrators and has discovered nothing to show that supervisors broke the state’s open meetings law.
“There’s been no violation of the Brown Act,” he said.
Citizens like the Realtors, Nations said, “have a constitutional right to approach their representatives.”
He said the demand is based solely on one sentence in a grant application submitted by the Bakersfield Association of Realtors to the National Association of Realtors.
Nations said the sentence doesn’t even refer to members of the Kern County Board of Supervisors – only local elected officials.
The Bakersfield City Council, which has also been targeted by the Checks and Balances Project over PACE, takes up the issue of PACE financing on Wednesday evening.