Sunday, July 13, 2014

Council to Dot "O" in Trash Ordinance

Everyone expects trash to stink but many San Angelo citizens don't like the smell of City Council's awarding a ten year contract to a vendor that overcharged businesses for over a decade.  A Standard Times poll found readers voting nearly nine to one against council's move.

Former City Councilman Paul Alexander believes the process needs to start over and launched a petition toward that end.

It has but days to work.  City Council will approve the trash fee ordinance this Tuesday.  It's item #8 on the Consent Agenda.

For the first time I saw what Councilman Vardeman referenced in the trash discussion when he said council members had been accused of being on the take by "a blogger."  It wasn't just a blogger, but a member of the public who served on City Council for three years.  The petition language states:

#5 Republic Services officials have in fact offered at least some council members a perk or perks. Some members have refused, but at least one member has publicly been seen with a Republic official playing golf on the same team just days before the final vote to accept the Republic contract with the City. While no member may have been asked to vote one way or another, there is an implied obligation to vote in favor of Republic when accepting perks.  It is a fact that the same council member did speak very positively in support of Republic and voted to approve the contract.  This is not ethical and we do not approve of this practice. 

I stand by my original suggestion that the new contract be put on hold, the city hire an outside firm to investigate this long term overcharge (under city leaders Will Wilde, Ricky Dickson and Shane Kelton) and share the results of that investigation with the public.  What communications occurred between these gentlemen and Trashaway-Republic on unauthorized charges?

Will Wilde's ability to act unilaterally culminated in the unauthorized purchase and installation of over $100,000 in water department furniture without required approvals.  Had he done something similar with Trashaway-Republic on unauthorized fees prior Ricky Dickson's taking over in 2004?

Recently City Council reversed their designated drought level, undertaken in part by advice from Water Chief Ricky Dickson.  Ricky told council he interpreted one section of the drought ordinance as Council "can do whatever y;all want."  The City Attorney did not countermand Dickson's legal prognostication.

Council did what they wanted and reversed it the next meeting, stating they needed to undo an illegal action.   How did Ricky advise Republic on fees under the city trash ordinance?  Was he as cavalier with trash fees as he recently showed with the city's drought ordinance?

A separate track would have the city auditor ask the seven companies who failed to submit a bid why they made their decision.  How many don't want a new $400 million over ten years contract?  Given they all likely desire one, why did they not submit a bid?  What structural aspects of the bid documents favored the incumbent Republic?  

After these investigations council would have appropriate information to act on prior bids submitted or consider undertaking a new RFP process.  The City's rush to approve awarding Republic two contacts, with trash up to twenty year term and the landfill potentially over one hundred years, will be inscribed in ordinance on Tuesday.  Council will dot the "O", which many see as offensive from an ethical standpoint.

Update 7-14-14:  San Angelo Live has information on one City Councilman's  interactions with Republic Services between RFP submission and the final vote on July 1.

Update 1-19-17:   Dickson became aware in 2011 that Republic Services was charging fees outside those allowed by city ordinance.  Rather than investigate the case for wider fraud Dickson had Republic stop billing one account for unauthorized fees.  Documents indicate Dickson was aware of Republic's fraudulent billing and helped sweep it under the rug.

Update 9-19-18:  Winning bidder Republic Services wants to back away from its recycling contractual commitments.   City staff and Republic will host public meetings on possible changes.

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