They claim they were cheated on their electric bills by Cleveland Public Power. They went to Cuyahoga County Court on Friday arguing the fight to get back money that has been rigged against them.
For seven years, city residents have pushed a class-action lawsuit demanding $100 million. The suit alleges CPP is illegally charging a hidden monthly fee.
Now, lawyers behind the lawsuit argue the city is trying to change the rules for deciding the case.
Clint Yoby is a city resident pressing the lawsuit. He believes it’s time for the city to finally pay up.
“Yeah, for everybody. Not just me. I’m not getting a windfall here. This is a class-action suit. To me, it’s completely unfair,” Yoby said.
Court records show the city has tried to take the lawsuit out of the hands of a judge. Instead, have it decided by a panel of three people all picked by the Department of Public Utilities and city council members.
“I think it’s a complete sham. I really do,” Yoby said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Attorney Tom Merriman said.
He wonders how anyone can expect justice from a panel hand-picked by the city.
“This is not something a legitimate public utility or any legitimate business does to its customers,” Merriman added,
Attorneys for the city argued Friday, during a hearing in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, that back in the spring, Cleveland City Council adopted a new ordinance that states disputes against CPP will be heard by the arbitration board.
Video from a council hearing shows a city official telling councilmembers, “It has to be fluid and unbiased.”
Friday, City Law Director Mark Griffin told the I-Team, “The city has created a new, more efficient way of handling disputes.”
But, we followed up by asking how the city can simply take something out of the hands of the court, then pick people to decide it.
“I’m not going to talk about the litigation, just the legislation. Under the legislation, they’re required to all be neutral,” Griffin said.
Attorney Merriman, though, said, “Well, that’s not justice. That’s not America. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. I don’t think the court’s going to tolerate it.”
You expect your power bill to charge you for what you used. Lawyers behind the class-action lawsuit say the city owes customers big money for quote “unauthorized” and “undisclosed” billing adjustments. In other words, hidden charges.
Merriman says buried in the energy adjustment charge is an environmental charge that is in violation of the Cleveland city ordinance.
The case is set for trial in October.
But, again, lawyers for the city and the customers argued over whether the case will be heard in a courtroom or in front the new three-person city panels.
It will be at least another week before a judge decides if the case will remain in her courtroom.
Yoby plans to keep fighting.
“We’ve done this for seven years now. I’ll do it another seven years if I have to,” he said.