jueves, 28 de junio de 2012

Zack's Verbal Attack Becomes Memo War - RhinoTimes.com Greensboro

Last week City Councilmember Zack Matheny lost his temper, then interrupted and later yelled at Tim Fadul, vice president of Waste Connections, whose crime apparently was once again submitting the lowest bid to dispose of Greensboro's garbage. But what Matheny accused Fadul of was lying about a private meeting in Matheny's office.

This week the battle has become a war of letters. Thursday, June 21, Fadul sent a letter to City Manager Denise Turner Roth that states, "In fact, despite the qualified privilege that Mr. Matheny enjoys as a member of the City Council, I believe that his accusations constitute actionable slander, as I believe they were motivated by malicious intent. I hereby request that Mr. Matheny issue a public retraction of his slanderous statements."

On Tuesday, June 26, Matheny sent a memo to his fellow members of council, copied to city staff and the top management at Waste Connections. Much of the letter Matheny spends patting himself and his fellow councilmembers on the back.

He states, "We have discussed the reasons we ran for Council and our passions for representing our citizens and making sure we all have the best interests of Greensboro when making decisions that affect our citizens' lives every day. Like you, I hold our position of Councilmember in the absolute highest regard with honesty as the concrete of the foundation with which we make decisions. It is with that virtue, that I stand by my statement that Mr. Fadul, with his subordinate employee, Mr. Frank Smith in attendance, acknowledged that his firm, if awarded the contract, may come to the City and ask for an extension of 30 to 45 days in order to allow for their co-contractor, A-1 Sandrock, to obtain in full the necessary equipment required to haul the waste of the City of Greensboro."

Evidently, Waste Connections was not impressed with Matheny's group aggrandizement and on Tuesday, June 26, Robert Cloninger, the corporate counsel for Waste Connections, sent an email to the city manager stating that Waste Connections had no intention of suing the City of Greensboro for the statements made by Matheny at the June 19 City Council meeting and after, but that Waste Connections and Fadul were again requesting an apology from Matheny. Cloninger states, "If, however, Mr. Matheny continues to make statements (either orally or in writing) that defame Mr. Fadul, Waste Connections or any other employee of Waste Connections, Mr. Fadul and Waste Connections shall have no choice but to defend themselves." The letter continues by repeating that Matheny would be sued in his individual capacity and not as a member of the City Council.

What started all of this was the June 19 City Council meeting, when the council discussed the two- to three-month contract to provide solid waste disposal service while the new consultant went over the proposals and made a recommendation for the multi-year contract. Waste Connections had the low bid by about $200,000 on that contract according to their own figures.

When Fadul was at the podium, Matheny said, "I've got a question for you, when you met with me in my office, did you tell me that you might need a 30 day extension of up to 45 days?"

Fadul replied, "No sir, I did not."

Matheny said, "Tim, you're telling me right now, in front of this council, that's not what you told me?"

Fadul said, "I'm telling you that I did not say that and I'm telling you there was also a third person in that room when we were having that conversation."

Matheny interrupted but Fadul finished his statement, "You can ask him the same question."

After a couple other comments Matheny said, "I can't do business with somebody who lies."

Later Matheny went into another diatribe about Fadul when he said Fadul was misleading the council, and when Fadul stood up to go to the podium to respond, a red-faced Matheny pointed at Fadul and yelled, "Sit down."

Fadul never raised his voice and was polite toward Matheny and the council.

By the way, Frank Smith who also works for Waste Connections and was the other person at the meeting, said Fadul didn't say anything about needing an extension because it wouldn't make any sense.

And Matheny's allegation doesn't make any sense. What Matheny is alleging Fadul did would be business suicide. Fadul and Smith were meeting with Matheny to try and convince him that Waste Connections could do the job. Waste Connections had submitted the low bid to dispose of Greensboro's garbage in its landfill in Anson County. Waste Connections in its bid had used A-1 Sandrock to transport the garbage from the Greensboro transfer station to Anson County. The consultant the city always hires for waste management issues, Joe Readling of HDR Engineering, ruled that A-1 Sandrock would not be able to transport the garbage on July 1, the day the contract began, because A-1 didn't have the trucks on hand. So Readling recommended that the contract be awarded to Republic Services.

So Fadul and Smith were meeting with Matheny to try and convince Matheny that Readling, who says himself that he is a civil engineer and not a transportation expert, was wrong and Waste Connections, with A-1 Sandrock as a subcontractor, could do the job. It would make no sense for Fadul to meet with Matheny and to say they couldn't do the job. If Fadul couldn't do the job he could simply withdraw his proposal. For Fadul to say that they couldn't get started on July 1 is the same as saying he couldn't do the job because the city cannot allow its garbage to pile up at the transfer station for a month while Waste Connections got its trucks in a row.

The whole bone of contention is that Readling determined that A-1 Sandrock couldn't be ready to transport Greensboro's garbage on July 1, and after that ruling the city found out that HDR Engineering does a lot of business with Republic Services but not with Waste Connections. So the city has hired a more independent consultant to look at the bids.

While the second consultant is looking at the proposals from Republic and Waste Connections the city still needs to have its garbage disposed of, and the topic of the meeting on June 19 was the short term contract to dispose of Greensboro's garbage from July 1 until the new multi-year contract is signed. And whoever is awarded the contract has time to get up and running.

According to the original schedule the contract was supposed to be awarded on June 5, giving the companies time to settle on the terms and get everything in place to start July 1. But then the council put off awarding the contract to June 12, cutting the preparation time by 25 percent. This should have been an indication to anyone watching that the intent all along was to give the contract to Republic Services because they are already doing the job so Republic could spend until June 30 negotiating the details of the contract and not miss a beat. Anyone else was going to be working overtime, but the city, it appears, wasn't seriously considering anyone else.

After repeatedly accusing Fadul of being a liar at the June 19 meeting Matheny made a motion to just go ahead and award the multi-year contract to Republic Services, which is what the city staff has wanted to do all along. Matheny's motion failed on a 5-to-4 vote, but he does get credit for trying to short circuit the process. Voting with Matheny to spend an extra $6 million to $10 million and award the contract to Republic Services were Mayor Robbie Perkins and Councilmembers Nancy Vaughan and Dianne Bellamy-Small.

The price difference in the two bids is between $1.2 million and $2 million per year on a five-year contract, so the total difference is between $6 million and $10 million. Why the Greensboro City Council would even consider spending an additional $6 million to $10 million to dispose of its garbage is a question that needs to be answered. Does it really matter to any of them whether the garbage is dumped in Montgomery County or Anson County?

Waste Connections is not well known in this area, but it is the third largest waste management company in the country and does over $1 billion a year in business. So the idea that Waste Connections would not be able to handle the garbage for Greensboro with a population of 260,000 is ridiculous. But Readling said that he didn't think Waste Connections could handle the contract because he didn't think A-1 Sandrock could be up and running in time.

A point that was made is that the temporary contract would have been a good opportunity to see if Waste Connections could do the job. Even if you took the driving route that Hilco Transport recommended to Anson County, which was miles longer than the Waste Connections route, there would still be some savings. But that temporary contract was awarded to Republic and Hilco.

The majority on the Greensboro City Council desperately wants to give the city's garbage bid to Republic Services and Hilco Transport despite the fact that their bids are higher. For some reason the fact that Waste Connections keeps underbidding Republic is seen as a problem.

Matheny, during the process of bidding the garbage disposal options, has failed to mention that he is in the garbage and recycling business himself. This is a fact that might have been of interest to his fellow councilmembers and his constituents, but Matheny chose not to disclose his new business venture.

Matheny is now selling the services of Green Day, a recycling and waste collection company in Greensboro. On Tuesday, June 26, before he had sent out the memo to fellow councilmembers, Matheny said, "Green Day has nothing to do with Republic and has nothing to do with Waste Connections." When asked if Green Day used the Republic landfill or transfer station, Matheny said, "I don't know. Not that I'm aware of."

Republic has a transfer station on Bishop Road. Some waste haulers use either the city transfer station on Burnt Poplar Road or the Republic transfer station, depending on which is closer. Matheny did not want to discuss how Green Day handles its operations.

But he was willing to discuss Fadul. Matheny said, "You know he's not being honest." He said, "Why on earth would I make up an elaborate story that would mislead my fellow councilmembers about a 30 to 45 day window? It's pretty obvious that he's not telling the truth."

Matheny added, "He's lying to you John. He's lying to you."

Matheny added, "The guy flat out lied." And then again, "I don't take someone lying to the council lightly."

One aspect of this whole controversy that is being overlooked is how Greensboro got in the situation where the contract for the disposal of Greensboro's garbage comes down to the wire and a temporary contract has to be put in place so that Greensboro's garbage doesn't pile up in the streets.

When the contract negotiations got under way Greensboro was negotiating with Republic Services for an exclusive 15-year contract. The city did not contact any other waste management companies to see if they could do the job cheaper, better or more efficiently. The city negotiated with Republic with the knowledge that Republic was overcharging the city by at least $800,000 a year. Republic said it could reduce its fees by $800,000 when the city was looking at discontinuing working with Republic and using the White Street Landfill instead.

So in February the city staff reported on the contract negotiations, and that is when Waste Connections threw a monkey wrench in the city's plan to offer an exclusive 15-year contract to Republic Services by asking permission to bid on the project. It goes without saying that the city was going to pay a premium price for the disposal of Greensboro's garbage because Republic wasn't bidding against anyone.

So Waste Connections got in the picture, and ever since the city staff, with the assistance of some councilmembers, Matheny and Vaughan to name two, have been working hard to give the contract to Republic Services despite the fact that Waste Connections has the lower bid.

Nancy Vaughan was recused from most of the White Street Landfill debate last year because her husband, state Sen. Don Vaughan, had a longtime contract with Waste Industries to provide legal services. According to Nancy Vaughan, Don Vaughan no longer has a contract with Waste Industries. As of January Don Vaughan will also no longer be a state senator because he is now in a heavily Republican district and chose not to run for reelection.

Matheny was recused from the White Street Landfill discussions because his employer at that time, Bell Partners, had a business relationship with D.H. Griffin Co. on a project in Atlanta. And D.H. Griffin was one of the companies that was involved in bidding on operating the landfill for the city.

Mayor Perkins is an owner of NAI Piedmont Triad commercial real estate, which has contracts with D.H. Griffin, but he was not recused.

The whole garbage deal is a huge mess and it is likely to get even messier if one of the bidders on the landfill operation ends up suing one of the city councilmembers.

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