AVRWC, TOAV hire media consultants (March 9, 2015)

Passantino Andersen working for AV Ranchos; town hires The 20/20 Network

APPLE VALLEY — The attorney for Apple Valley and the town’s major water provider have moved to retain public relations companies over the town’s effort to acquire Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co.

The Town of Apple Valley is in the exploratory process of acquiring Apple Valley Ranchos through purchase or condemnation after the water company made it clear it will not sell to the town.

Apple Valley Ranchos and its parent, Park Water Co., have staff members and Catalyst Factor Agency to provide general information, and recently brought on Passantino Andersen. Catalyst and Passantino Andersen are regional firms that provide strategic communications services.

Apple Valley Ranchos has made it very clear we will use every resource at our disposal to address this unnecessary and irresponsible takeover attempt by Apple Valley’s town government, General Manager Tony Penna said Thursday. To that end, we expect to engage a variety of professional services throughout the High Desert.

While the town government continues to use voters’ tax dollars to conduct its misinformation campaign against Apple Valley Ranchos, our shareholders — not our customers — are funding our efforts to inform this community about the facts and impact of this long, costly debate.

Penna did not disclose specifics about public relations costs.

The Office of Ratepayer Advocates, an independent division within the California Public Utilities Commission, generally scrutinizes expenses claimed for outside sources that are cited in rate cases, according to Danilo Sanchez, a manager in the ORA’s water division.

Any cost incurred by the condemnation is not included in rates, Sanchez said, so ratepayer bills do not go up for that reason.

Though Apple Valley already has spokespeople on staff, Town Attorney John Brown, a partner in the law firm Best Best & Krieger, has also hired The 20/20 Network for consultation in the matter of water acquisition.

According to The 20/20 Network’s website, one of the company’s areas of expertise is uncomplicating legal, infrastructure and public policy issues so they can be easily understood by the general public.

Matters such as the effort to acquire AVR involve a great deal of legal complexity, Brown said.

The town attorney has contracted with a public outreach firm to assist with public outreach and the production and distribution of public information in the town’s H2Ours effort, town spokeswoman Kathie Martin said. As such, this professional services contract is currently protected by the attorney-client privilege. The town attorney expects to recommend to the Town Council on Tuesday that the attorney-client privilege be waived as to the contract so that the contract can be released as a public record for the public’s information.

Brown said he will propose the disclosure in the interest of transparency and will pass along 20/20’s costs to the town, he said.

The Town Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall, 14955 Dale Evans Parkway in Apple Valley. Meetings are scheduled the second and fourth Tuesdays monthly.

Source: Gary Brodeur, Daily Press