The Goleta Water District issued a statement Wednesday announcing it would comply with a request for information made by the Santa Barbara Civil Grand Jury.

The investigation reportedly centers on the district’s billing practices from 2005 to 2009. The GWD serves the region between the western boundary of Santa Barbara and the Gaviota coast.

Last year, representatives of the district discovered that customers who had closed accounts during the four-year period and didn’t pay a final bill didn’t continue to receive invoices from the district. The unpaid bills were sent to a collection agency, Financial Credit Network.

Wednesday’s statement said the crux of the issue revolves around the discrepancy between the time customers received their final bills and when they received notice from the collection agency.

“In some cases, it had been a year or two or three since that final bill had been sent before the collection agency contacted the customer,” GWD general manager John McInnes said.

The district maintains that its attorney, Fran Farina, evaluated the practices last October and found the agency had complied with the law regarding past-due accounts.

District customers were notified of the discrepancy in the district’s fall 2009 newsletter and on the agency’s Web site.

Since the problem was discovered, district officials said they’ve corrected their billing system and that there have been no further problems.

Now when a customer closes an account, a final bill is sent, and notices continue to be sent until the payment is made.

McInnes said that a customer who is late on a payment typically will have past-due notices spanning 90 days before the account is turned over to collections.

Bill Rosen, the district’s board president, said in the statement that the district intends to cooperate with the grand jury and its requests for information.

“Our goal is to provide every opportunity for the customer, or past customer, to pay their final bill,” McInnes said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.