A sharply divided Tampa Bay Water board voted Monday to settle its lawsuit against the company that designed its flawed reservoir, with HDR Engineering handing over $30 million — far less than the cost of a repair, which means the ratepayers would likely pick up the rest of the tab.
The regional utility’s management announced the settlement in a news release, and an HDR executive hailed it as the best possible solution.
But there was a problem. The settlement passed by a vote of 4-3 — and it turns out that’s not enough.
Late Monday, two Pinellas County commissioners who were on the losing side of the vote pointed out what was wrong: The rules governing Tampa Bay Water require at least five of the board’s nine members to ratify any legal settlement.
Votes to approve the settlement fell one short, so “it doesn’t count,” said Pinellas Commissioner Susan Latvala.
Latvala and Commissioner Neil Brickfield had voted against the settlement and then heard about the problem from county attorneys who were familiar with how Tampa Bay Water was set up, she said.…