Judge upholds some, but not all of Portland's water and sewer spending

PORLTAND, Ore. – A judge ruled Monday that the city of Portland was justified in some of its expenditures from water and sewer rates but found fault with others.

The judge said using water and sewer money for the Portland loo project and for publicly funded elections violated the city's charter but upheld using the money for a light rail project and buying part of Riverview Cemetery.

John DiLorenzo, the attorney for the plaintiffs, told KATU the disallowed expenditures come to about $1 million.

He said it’s too soon to tell if ratepayers will see some relief and the ruling is "the basis for going forward."

"We are pleased with the court's ruling that, unlike what the city has advocated, there must be a reasonable relationship between spending and water and sewer functions," DiLorenzo said in a statement to KATU. "Accordingly, our lawsuit will now focus on at least 25 additional categories of spending which were not reasonably related to water and sewer projects. These categories will include $52 million which the sewer fund has advanced on behalf of other bureaus for Portland Harbor studies."

According to DiLorezno, the judge found that the spending for the cemetery was justified because the purpose was to preserve an area for storm drainage. DiLorezno also said the judge found that the spending on the light rail project was justified because the City Council tied it to relocating water lines.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales' office also saw the ruling as a victory.

"We are pleased that the court has adopted our interpretation of the Charter and recognized the Portland City Council's authority to decide how best to manage the City's sewer, storm water, and water systems," City Attorney Tracy Reeve said in a statement released through the mayor's office.

"I am pleased the court rejected this blatant attack on the City's environmental stewardship," Commissioner Nick Fish said in the same statement. "The two items, which the Judge ruled were outside the bounds of the Charter, are yesterday's news and have already been fixed."