Navy investigators say they found no evidence to support allegations that a management company running military housing on a major California base overcharged residents on their energy bills.
Several military families who lived in base housing on Camp Pendleton in California — which is managed by the private company Lincoln Military Housing — told We Are The Mighty they were threatened with eviction notices over energy bills they didn't owe.
The residents alleged they were being intimidated into not fighting the overages, and sources told WATM Navy investigators were looking into the issue.
But according to a Feb. 14 statement from Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice, Navy officials closed the inquiry into accusations of over billing "after it became evident the allegations being made were unfounded."
"No criminal misconduct was discovered," Buice added in the email statement to WATM.
Buice did not reply to a request for additional comment.
Residents of the San Onofre II neighborhood at Camp Pendleton say they were within the margins for monthly electricity use that would preclude an overage charge.
Military families there pay a lump sum rent that includes a certain amount of energy usage. When they consume less electricity than the allotted amount, they are refunded; when they go over, they receive bills, officials say.
Several residents told WATM that they had seen sudden sharp increases in their electric bills and were threatened with eviction if they didn't pay up. Many claimed they were rebuffed when they approached base housing officials about the alleged billing problems.
Marine Corps Installations West spokeswoman 1st Lt. Abigail Peterson told WATM in a Feb. 16 email that "all of the official complaints received regarding this situation were addressed and resolved," adding that Lincoln Military Housing had "implemented a new process to monitor requests to ensure all concerns are addressed in a timely manner."
"We take feedback very seriously and want to ensure responsible measures are followed to alleviate any issues for our Marines, sailors and their families living here on base," Peterson said.
Military family advocate Kristine Schellhaas — who originally brought the billing allegations to light — wasn't satisfied Pendleton's response, arguing base residents aren't simply misreading their bills.
"There are systematic flaws with how this program has been implemented," Schellhaas told WATM. "The facts are that this program needs to get audited."