Lawsuit against Dearborn challenging water, sewer rates dismissed

Suit subject of inflammatory publicity in October

DEARBORN –  The city prevailed in an attempted class action lawsuit challenging its water and sewer rates when Wayne County Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan on Dec. 12 dismissed all claims made against the city.

Sullivan granted Dearborn’s motion for summary disposition and dismissed all of Therese Shaw’s claims against the city.

In doing so he ruled the city’s rate methodology is proper, that the city has appropriately applied water and sewer rates to the operation and maintenance of the water and sewer systems, that the city is not profiting from or being enriched by water and sewer rates, that the city is not improperly using water and sewer charges to pay for the construction of its combined sewer overflow project, and that individual payers of the water and sewer systems are not being overcharged to the benefit of other users.

Sullivan also agreed with the city that charges to users of the water and sewer systems are not taxes. Because of that, Sullivan said the allegations in the lawsuit were based on a false premise.

The comprehensive ruling in Dearborn’s favor on all claims is in sharp contrast to inflammatory publicity that was distributed about the lawsuit in October, prior to the city’s November election, when flyers about the lawsuit were placed on vehicles in parking lots in Dearborn with claims made about the city’s water and sewer charges.

“The City of Dearborn prides itself on keeping its systems in working order, and its corresponding water and sewer rates appropriate and reasonable,” a statement in a release from the city read.

“The continued maintenance of the systems — including operation of the CSOs, replacement of aging water and sewer lines, and additional separation for parts of the system — will help further these goals,” the release said. “Therefore, the city vigorously defended against the unfounded allegations made in the Shaw lawsuit.”

“This lawsuit was baseless, and we’re pleased that justice prevailed,” Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said. “We proved that our residents and businesses can have confidence in the city’s application and administration of our water and sewer rates.”

The city’s Department of Public Works director, city engineer, and Finance director testified in the case, which was overseen by the city’s Legal Department. Dearborn was defended by attorney Gary August of the law firm of Zausmer, August & Caldwell, P.C.
Similar lawsuits against other southeastern Michigan communities’ water and sewer rates also have been unsuccessful.