AUGUSTA, Ga.- A Grovetown, Ga. business owner and a homeowner are accusing the city of overcharging them for water service and are taking it to court.
Business-owner Deena Youngblood of Learning, Laughter, and Love daycare and homeowner Allen Transou are trying to bring a class action suit against the city. Neither were at a hearing Friday morning, but their attorneys say the $4 million they’re seeking in damages is a conservative estimate of what they believe the city has overcharged residents.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and F.B.I. are already investigating criminal accusations against Grovetown city clerk Vicki Capetillo. Now, citizens are bringing forth a civil case against the city government.
“We have all of these problems,” said Jeffrey Peil, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “It’s one reasonable step to take, and logic[al], after that to simply say these people have probably been over-billed. It’s time to finally have an accounting.”
It all has to do with water bills.
“We were confronted by a taxpayer in the city of Grovetown with a claim that her $5400 water bill was absurd,” he said.
However, the city’s attorney said that this bill got so high because it accumulated with interest over several months after she failed to pay in full. The plaintiffs, business owner Deena Youngblood, and homeowner Allen Transou, are accusing the city of over-billing them as well as other city residents for a necessity:water. They are trying to spearhead a class action lawsuit.
“I believe Ms. Youngblood and Mr. Transou, and really all the taxpayers of the city of Grovetown, suffer from the same problem. Arbitrary billing practices, fraudulent billing practices, fraudulent meter readings,” Peil said.
But at a hearing in Richmond County Friday, Judge Michael Annis was not convinced that the suit should be classified as class action. However, Mayor Jones says the Georgia Municipal Association did find flaws in how the city handles its water processing.
“That review has came back. It found some faults, but nothing indicating that it was some criminal activity involved,” Jones said. “Just a lot of procedural type problems and that we are working on now.”
Among those problems are computer glitches and programs used inappropriately, Jones said.
“Computer glitches, things like that…those are the sources of hundred million dollar lawsuits right there,” Peil said. “Computer glitches are things that rule in favor of the city and over-bill the good honest tax-paying citizens of the city of Grovetown, and as such, I mean, the mayor basically admitted that these computer glitches, in open court, are costing the tax payers of the city of Grovetown, excess funds.”
As for the $4 million the plaintiffs are seeking, one of their attorneys says it’s based on their conservative estimate that each resident was over-billed $10 per month over five years.
The next hearing is scheduled for October 27.