San Angelo Live reported city leaders knew trash hauler Republic Services charged fuel fees above those allowed by city ordinance. Operations Director Ricky Dickson investigated a commercial complaint in August 2011 that should've caused concern that Republic wasn't complying with the contract and city ordinances in place at the time.
Dickson and Trashaway dropped the unauthorized fees from one customer's bill. That move set the stage for Republic to say it owed $6.5 million in refunds for customer over payments.
Fraud: wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.City Manager Daniel Valenzuela should have known this information after April 15, 2014, when the public became aware of unauthorized fees Republic charged commercial customers. The city's internal investigation cited Republic's Environmental Recovery Fee, which had never been authorized by Council.
What happens when city leaders uncover fraud but turn the other way like Ricky Dickson? A mere five months later Valenzuela created a new Executive Director of Public Works job for Dickson, waiving the Professional Engineer requirement for the second time.
At the time of Dickson's promotion in September 2014 I wrote:
Frankly, I wonder what price the community will pay ten years from now from the leadership combination of Valenzuela-Dickson. I expect it to be significant.The city hired Ricky's son Brandon as Assistant Director Water Treatment Plant last summer. This upgraded position is roughly $37,000 higher in annual pay and comes with the potential for two $5,000 bonuses for certifications required to be considered for the position. Brandon's pay started at $92,950. Oddly, Ricky told a reliable source that Brandon would return to city employment in January 2016, before the search process began.
Republic perpetrated a $6.5 million fraud against commercial customers. The unauthorized fees investigation provides evidence of Ricky Dickson's choosing to support a vendor vs. acting in the wider public interest. The investigation came from outside City Hall. These two facts should be concerning to the public and elected officials.
Update 2-17-17: Investigative journalist Wayne Dolchfino and San Angelo Live continue asking questions about the city's work in this arena. City Public Information Officer Anthony Wilson produced a defensive piece that ignored the issue raised in this post as to why the city only refunded one customer in 2011 when responsible leaders learned of the unauthorized billing.