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