The City of Carson has been sued over its decision to change vendors for the city’s trash hauling contract.
On March 15 Waste Management filed a Writ of Mandate in Los Angeles County Superior Court, challenging what they allege as “the unlawful, procedurally unfair, arbitrary, and capricious decision of the City of Carson… to disregard the published criteria for competitive bidding on a waste hauling franchise agreement.”
Waste management contends that the winner of the city’s contract, Waste Resources Inc, (WRI) “was not the most competitive candidate” under the city’s stated selection criteria.
The strongly worded legal filing continues, “The proposal evaluation process was either in fact or in effect, a sham process by which respondents had already preselected WRI to win the contract and as such manipulated, abused, disregarded, and modified Carson Municipal Code provisions and other laws in an attempt to justify the award to WRI.”
The courts will decide whether this claim has merit, but CAT raised issues with the transparency of this process in December of last year. Among the concerns stated at the time:
The City Council set up an “ad-hoc” committee of the city council to handle the RFP (bid) process which means the committee was not subject to California’s open government requirements under the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Furthermore, the City’s ad hoc committee held its first meeting just two weeks before voting on the contract, without notice to the public or interested parties.
Documents relating to the RFP were not fully disclosed to the public, as other cities routinely do. As an example, the City of Long Beach distributed details of the finalists several weeks prior to the scheduled vote. CAT leadership asked for a delay in the final decision on this award of the contract so that the city could meet a higher standard of transparency in its process.
There is good reason for this process in particular to have a high level of scrutiny. It is among the largest contracts a city enters into, worth tens of millions of dollars and in this case, spanning 15 years. It also has a real impact to city residents. As reported by The Daily Breeze on May 2, “The winning company’s bid included a 35-cent monthly decrease to single-family homes, while seniors aged 62 and over with small 32-gallon containers will see their bills decline $2.61 a month. But residents of multifamily units will see their bills rise by almost a quarter, 24 percent, while commercial customers will receive increases of between 11 percent and 25 percent a month.”
Finally, the issue of waste hauling in Carson has a very fraught history. In 2002 the FBI, IRS and federal prosecutors uncovered a conspiracy in which Carson’s then-Mayor and other councilmembers solicited $600,000 in bribes in exchange for awarding a 10-year, $60 million trash-hauling contract to Browning Ferris Industries Inc.
No one has suggested a similar situation now, but clearly given the city’s past history with this issue, awarding a new contract should have been part of a rigorous and transparent process.
The city is now faced with a potentially costly lawsuit.