Initially, this editorial stated that AmeriWaste plans to raise residential rates, which is still true. But this editorial also should have provided context that the current provider, Republic Services, also proposed to raise rates for residents and that the $3.5 million to $7 million a year the city would save by using AmeriWaste was not because of higher rates for residents.

The League City council’s decision last week to grant Alvin-based AmeriWaste Inc. a five-year solid waste collection contract was stunning.

AmeriWaste is the garbage hauler whose dealings with the city 10 years ago caused a scandal, sparked a criminal investigation and civil litigation.

AmeriWaste in 2007 won a controversial five-year garbage collection contract despite bidding higher than IESI, the city’s previous garbage contractor.

Some council members at the time said the deal with AmeriWaste had been orchestrated during secret meetings to favor the company, which was partially owned by a former city administrator who was a friend of former Mayor Jerry Shults. Shults and other council members who voted for the controversial contract said that allegations were politically motivated.

At the time, Tim Paulissen, mayor and councilman, and Mike Barber, a councilman, asked District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk to investigate whether some council members violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when they voted to switch companies.

City records later revealed AmeriWaste had negotiated a deal for months during a time IESI didn’t know its contract was in jeopardy.

A civil court jury in 2008 found that AmeriWaste President Janell Marin committed fraud, misapplied her fiduciary duty and forged the signatures of League City, Alvin and Friendswood city employees while she worked for IESI. The jury ordered her to pay about $400,000 in damages to IESI. Marin appealed the case, but the First Texas Court of Appeals in 2009 upheld the jury’s judgment.

Marin is named as the president of AmeriWaste League City on the contract the city council approved last week.

The city council argued AmeriWaste offered a deal this time that could save the city between $3.5 million and $7 million over five years. That’s an important consideration. 

Texas bidding statutes require that public entities award contracts to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, or the bidder who provides goods or services at the “best value.” Texas procurement rules are important and are meant to stimulate competition, prevent favoritism and secure the best work and materials at the lowest practical price for the best interests of taxpayers.

And public entities, according to the Texas Municipal League, can also determine the best value by considering the reputation of the bidder and of the bidder’s goods or services and the quality of the bidder’s goods or services and the bidder’s past relationship with the municipality, among other factors.

We commend the city council for trying to save money, but in this case, we have to ask whether anyone did consider the reputation of the bidder or the city’s past relationship with AmeriWaste.

Are taxpayers being served here? That remains to be seen. But what is certain, given the history, everyone will be watching.

• Laura Elder

 Laura Elder: 409-683-5248; laura.elder@galvnews.com

(6) comments

Diane Turski

Thank you for shedding some light on what has been a puzzling decision by the City Council. I believe that "best value" should always be the most important consideration in every purchasing decision.

chad tressler

I’m thankful the Daily News had the decency to categorize this write-up as “Opinion”. However, the fact that it was written by a staff member of the paper means the subscribers should expect a higher standard of accuracy. A few points that should be made regarding the write-up:
1. The past “scandal” and questions whether the city should have put more consideration into “the reputation of the bidder and of the bidder’s goods or services and the quality of the bidder’s goods or services and the bidder’s past relationship with the municipality” should stand on its own merits. If the point of the opinion piece was to deliver this message, it should be done on those grounds alone and not pulled in a distorted representation of the costs to residents of League City.
2. The writer failed to mention that the city described a rigorous process whereby staff made the recommendation to council to enter into a contract with Ameriwaste which was very different than the process that was followed in 2007. The process involved independently scoring performance and technical aspects of bids by multiple city staff members, then having separate staff members review the financial numbers before making a recommendation, something not done in 2007. The bid process was also run transparently and provided sufficient time for five companies to successfully submit bids for consideration, something also not done in 2007.
3. The people involved on the city’s behalf in 2007 are no longer involved in the city, either as staff or in elected positions.
4. The writer failed to mention that the criminal investigation in 2007 did not result in any charges, yet referred to the investigation for dramatic effect.
5. The civil case stemming from the 2007-2008 “scandal” was between two competing trash companies, and was not a result of negative impact to the citizens of League City. This is not to defend any sort of unethical business practice, but should decrease the importance of the civil suit as a consideration factor for the city.
6. The sentence “But among the ways AmeriWaste said it could do the job so cheaply is by hiking residential solid waste collection rates from $14 to $16.05 a month...” demonstrates that the writer either clearly didn’t follow the entire discussion at the council meeting, doesn’t understand the contract, or is attempting to stir up anger in the community about an issue that is completely separate from the ethical considerations that are supposedly the purpose of the opinion piece. The “hiking” of residential rates would have been even more (closer to $18 per month) for the next bidder (a new contract with the existing trash provider, Republic). The “savings” of $3.5-7million are an estimate of savings shared between all customers for trash service in League City comparing the bid from AmeriWaste to the bid from Republic. In other words, they aren’t passing a savings to “the city” on the backs of residents, as this opinion piece implies. So which is it, lazy research by Laura Elder, or intentional spin (which would be ironic, given the fact that most of this opinion piece involves a discussion of ethics). Perhaps a reminder of journalism ethics are in order. You could start here, https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp, with the most applicable points being: “Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify…”, “Never deliberately distort facts…”, and “Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.”
7. The spin is further heightened in the conclusion when asking, “Are taxpayers, who will pay higher rates, being served here?” Implying that taxpayers would pay lower rates if the city selected the new bid from Republic (under which homeowners would be paying even higher rates).
In summary, it’s completely fair, and good journalism holding the government to task, to ask if the trade-off of lower cost than the competing bid is worth the potential concerns regarding the ethics of the trash provider. Personally, I think ethics would be a bigger factor if this was, say, a contract to provide complex equipment (such as the federal government purchasing fighter jets) or services that enable corners to be cut (such as building a new animal shelter/police station/city hall building). This is just a contract to pick up trash, and there are few opportunities short of breaking the terms of the contract regarding frequency of collection, types of garbage that must be picked up, and changes to cost, to cut corners in carrying out a garbage collection contract. However, to imply that AmeriWaste’s ethical considerations ALSO come with higher rates for the residents than the alternative bid (which it clearly does not, as was openly discussed at the last council meeting) demonstrates a lack of research at best, and possibly intentional deceit.

Doyle Beard

even though no criminal charges file ordering the repaying $400,000.00 means something was done wrong. $2 or so a month would not bother me in order to weed out these kind of people.

chad tressler

It means her actions hurt her previous employer (IESI), not the city. Is it unethical business? Probably. Is it a reason for our city to care? In my opinion, not so much. I assume businesses are going to do everything they can to take away business from their competitors. If the city staff can stay on top of the contract and their contractors, which they feel they can, why do I care? Satan himself could be picking up my garbage, as long as he does it for a lower cost than his competitor, does it on time, doesn't skip my street, and doesn't damage my garbage bin or leave it upside-down in my driveway or the street. Every dollar matters.

lauraelder Staff
Laura Elder

Mr. Tressler does bring up a good point about Republic also planning to raise rates. I did not realize that and that was my error. We will run a news story about the different bids and why the city believed AmeriWaste's was the better choice. But I do stand by the rest of the editorial and that the integrity and character of a business does matter.

Doyle Beard

It means she comitted fraud, forgery(3 cities)misapplied her fiduciary duty along with underhanded negoiations. Pretty damn long rap sheet in my opinion and the city says that's ok .
I am not happy with selling people souls for a few dollars.

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