Thursday, October 11, 2012
A.G. Says Water District Can Sue to Oust Director Over Residence
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A small water district in San Bernardino County can sue to formally remove an elected director who appears not to live in the district, Attorney General Kamala Harris has opined.
The attorney general Tuesday released a published opinion granting the Arrowbear Park County Water District leave to bring a quo warranto action against Richard Kuritz. The district is located in the Lake Arrowbear community east of Running Springs.
Kuritz, the attorney general noted, was elected in 2009 and announced his resignation from the board after residency questions were raised a year ago. He has been replaced by a new board member, after the board declared the seat vacant, but Kuritz has never submitted a formal letter of resignation, so the quo warranto action may formally settle his status.
In its application for leave to bring the action, the district noted that questions about Kuritz’s residence were raised on multiple occasions in 2010 and 2011, and the board asked Riverside attorney Joseph Aklufi, who serves as district counsel, to investigate.
Aklufi reported that Kuritz claimed his ex-wife’s home—on Music Camp Rd., in the district—as his domicile, and said he lived there with her consent, but with no written agreement. The attorney also noted that while Kuritz had a bank account and post office box in the area, neighbors said they rarely saw him at the residence, and that utility records showed that there was relatively little water, power, or telephone use at the property.
Aklufi also reported that Kuritz was registered to vote in both San Bernardino and San Diego counties, that he had family living in San Diego, that state tax records showed a San Diego address for him, and that his telephone numbers all had San Diego exchanges. The attorney noted that Kuritz was asked to provide additional documentation and said he would do so, but that none was forthcoming.
Kuritz, the district noted in its application, claimed following counsel’s report that the board had no authority to ask him to provide the documentation. The board then passed its resolution declaring the seat vacant.
Harris explained in her opinion Tuesday that the state Water Code requires board members to be “voters” in the district in which they serve. To be a voter, the attorney general noted, one must not only be registered at a district address, but must actually be domiciled in the precinct where registered.
The code does allow a lawfully elected member to temporarily move his or her domicile while serving on the board, but the member must move back to the district within 180 days or give up the office.
While the evidence of Kuritz’s out-of-district residence is not conclusive, since there may be other evidence on the subject, the attorney general said, it is sufficient to present “substantial questions of fact and law warranting judicial resolution,” which is the standard for granting leave to sue in quo warranto.
The attorney general explained:
“While we do not consider these pieces of documentation all to be of equal weight, we believe that, taken in the aggregate, they indicate little physical presence at the Music Camp Road address, coupled with significant activity and evidence of residence within the city of San Diego. Moreover, while both we and courts have generally accorded great weight to a person’s statements of intent regarding his or her domicile, as corroborated by the person’s conduct, Kuritz has repeatedly refused to declare which residence he considers his domicile, or to provide this office with any evidence that would tend to prove domicile within the District.”
The opinion, No. 11-1113, was prepared for Harris by Deputy Attorney General Diane Eisenberg.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company