Night-time visits from government agents

We keep hearing about outrageous behavior by people acting as agents for the Department of Water Resources in the Delta.

This week it was an individual showing up at 8 p.m. and letting himself into the home of an elderly woman to serve her with court papers.  Her caregiver, reminded of similar night-time visitations in her homeland of Iran, headed to the kitchen looking for a knife, but the confused elderly woman was mostly impressed by the server’s tattoos.

Her sons own the property and could have been served at their prominent business during business hours.  Why didn’t DWR’s agent try that?

ALL of DWR’s entries and activities under the Temporary Entry Permit (TEP) statute have been stayed by the court for the “first wave” of petitions.  There should be no TEP entries going on at all now, other than where a landowner has given permission.

However, DWR appears to be serving a “second wave” of TEP petitions, trimmed down in their demands but still invasive.  According to Thomas Keeling of Freeman, D’Aiuto, Pierce, Gurev, Keeling & Wolf these cases:

Should ultimately be brought into the pending coordinated proceedings as “add-on” cases.  Disposition of those matters should, in all likelihood, be governed by the pending appellate proceedings and whatever happens on remand to the Superior Court.

A separate issue that Keeling comments on, and with which Restore the Delta concurs, is  the lack of professionalism we are hearing about with these process servers who are serving petitions on behalf of DWR.  People should be approached at decent hours by individuals who knock on the door, identify themselves clearly, and explain that they are there to serve papers issued in a legal proceeding.

As Keeling explained to us, “The kind of trickery and ambush we see from process servers in movies should be avoided, unless the person being served has been repeatedly evasive.  This is especially true when the party employing the process server is a government agency.”

Particularly alarming are the accounts that Mr. Keeling and Restore the Delta has heard of DWR agents threatening people with lawsuits or other harsh consequences if they don’t sign entry permits or accept offers to acquire property.  We have heard these accounts from various corners of the Delta and from various sources that are not connected to each other, suggesting a clear pattern of intimidation being used on Delta landowners by DWR.

Although DWR gets a huge chunk of its funding from the State Water Contractors, it should at least try to act like a State agency serving the public. 

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