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Guest Editorial

Stuart A. KnowlesBoard of DirectorsSummit Water Distribution Company

Summit Water is amazed by Mr. Richer’s comments regarding the lawsuits that plague Summit County. Mr. Richer campaigned with a pledge to settle some of the lawsuits involving Summit County and has without question failed to deliver. Moreover, Mr. Richer has been the acting chair during a period of unprecedented litigation involving Summit County. No matter who the parties are, or how Mr. Richer would like to characterize their motives, Summit County, under the leadership of Mr. Richer (and Mr. Woolstenhulme), has been unable to resolve either the litigation or the actions of the county that led to the litigation.

The ultimate problem is best illustrated by the complete lie Mr. Richer puts forth in the interview: "Summit Water officials have refused attempts by the Summit County Commission to settle litigation."

Representatives of Summit Water are always open to fair and reasonable settlement proposals — Summit Water settled the suit filed by Summit County against Summit Water involving Spring Creek Springs on fair and reasonable terms. The plain truth is that no Summit County official has made an offer of settlement to any plaintiff in the pending antitrust action. This lack of truth is prevalent in the Summit County leadership. Mr. Richer seems to believe that if he states something often enough, it will become true. Not so.

Mr. Richer remains in denial that the actions of the county, its elected officials and staff have resulted in the explosion of litigation. The antitrust claims of Summit Water and its shareholders stem from the egregious actions of the county. Summit Water would have been perfectly content to conduct its business of supplying the best quality water to its shareholders at the lowest cost had the county not elected to interfere. An attempted takeover by condemnation, among other horrendous actions, left no option but to sue. The ultimate irony is Mr. Richer ascribing to Summit Water the documented motive of the county — to run a competitor out of business.

Litigation is a drastic step, generally taken only after careful deliberation and where no other reasonable alternatives exist. Given the context of the other litigation and the treatment of landowners in Summit County, there likely is substance to the claims. If Mr. Richer desires to resolve the litigation, he must be willing to acknowledge that the actions of the county’s representatives have consequences and modify the offending conduct. Only then will the flood of litigation subside and put the county in a position to settle or otherwise resolve outstanding cases.

Taking Mr. Richer’s statements to their logical conclusion, Mountain Regional can only exist if the First Amendment rights of Summit County citizens to seek redress for wrongs are suppressed. The citizens of Summit County expect more of their elected officials who hold office based on the principal of public trust. There is no room for dishonest statements that camouflage misdeeds. Hopefully, the voters will look at Mr. Richer’s statements in a clear light and elect an honest and forthright commissioner this November.


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