Pinal County customers would get refunds under settlement of utility case

A proposed $10 million settlement of a class-action racketeering lawsuit against a water and wastewater utility in Pinal County would provide refunds to customers.

A Nov. 19 motion filed on behalf of Johnson Utilities and various co-defendants and the customers who sued Johnson asked a federal judge to approve the settlement.

The lawsuit alleged that Johnson conspired to unlawfully increase its rates by using a lobbyist to bribe a now-former Arizona Corporation Commission member.

The settlement states that it isn’t an admission of wrongdoing or liability by any party in the case.

The lawsuit included information from a related criminal case that ended in 2018 when jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. Prosecutors decided against retrying the case.

The motion said the settlement would cover only about half of customers’ actual financial damages but was fair because of the risk of losing such a case.

Under the settlement, current customers would receive refunds up to $172.50 through credits on their bills while ex-customers would be mailed checks.

EPCOR, which bought Johnson’s assets in January, is not a party to the lawsuit but has agreed to distribute the refunds, the motion said.

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