Author Topic: Trail Ridge Mayhem. City Official sings like Bird. "Misled"  (Read 845 times)

stephendare

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Trail Ridge Mayhem. City Official sings like Bird. "Misled"
« on: April 16, 2009, 12:28:49 PM »
What is there to say except "wow".

Congrats to Tia Mitchell for some old fashioned honest to God reporting.

http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2009-04-16/story/former_chief_feels_misled_on_trail_ridge_pact
Quote
A former Jacksonville City Hall department chief who helped negotiate the original Trail Ridge landfill deal now says he shouldn't have signed an affidavit supporting Waste Management's interpretation of the contract.

Allan Williams, who was director of public utilities at the time the 1991 agreement was signed, now says he likely would have drawn a different conclusion had he refreshed his memory by reading the contract. Instead, he signed an affidavit given to him by a Waste Management lobbyist, at the urging of one of Mayor John Peyton's top aides.

Since then, Williams said he received a number of phone calls from people asking him if he knew what he'd done. Now he said he feels misled, although he wouldn't say by whom. And he wonders if the mayor's office is working against the city's best interests.

"Usually the mayor and the city's interests are the same," he said Wednesday. "Maybe they are not. I don't know in Jacksonville, and that's what's frustrating to me."

The dispute over the contract is a key argument Peyton is using to push for granting Waste Management a $750 million, 35-year contract extension: Whether the 1991 deal gives the company the right to operate the entire 978-acre Trail Ridge site or just the current 144-acre landfill.

Waste Management has said it will sue the city if the contract extension is not approved, and Peyton says that threat and the possible legal costs involved are reasons to extend the contract.

Republic Services, a Waste Management competitor, is pushing the City Council to open the contract to bids. Other companies have said they'd also like the chance to compete.

City Councilman Warren Jones, who has backed Peyton on Trail Ridge, said Wednesday night he would have to re-evaluate his support because of Williams' admission. Jones, who became the council president shortly after the original contract was signed, said Williams was intimately involved with the contract negotiations and praised him for his work.

Now the director of water resources for Greensboro, N.C., Williams said he was approached a couple of months ago by Alan Mosley, the mayor's chief administrative officer. According to Williams, Mosley told him the original contract was for the entire site and suggested that Williams sign an affidavit supporting that assertion.

Days later, Williams said, he received a document drafted by Waste Management lobbyist Paul Harden and signed it.

"I assumed I was assisting the city," he said.

Peyton said he doesn't know what Mosley discussed with Williams, but he doesn't find it surprising that his aide would have reached out to former city employees to obtain their recollections.

Asked whether he would be concerned if Mosley incorrectly represented the city's position, Peyton only reiterated that the city believes the contract is for life for the current facility, not the entire site.

During the City Council's meeting on Trail Ridge April 9, however, Harden said Williams' affidavit was proof that a credible former city employee sided against the city's interpretation of the contract.

Mosley couldn't be reached Wednesday because of previously scheduled medical appointments, Peyton aide Misty Skipper said.

Two other affidavits side with the city. Douglas Wood, the former deputy director of public utilities, and James O'Connor, a former Waste Management executive who is now CEO of Republic Services, both say the contract only involves the current landfill.

Wood, now the public works director in Grand Rapids, Mich., declined to sign the affidavit Harden sent him, which was almost identical to the one Williams signed.

Peyton said the strength of the city's case gave it leverage to renegotiate a contract with Waste Management that saves the taxpayers $300 million. But putting the contract out to bid, as some City Council members advocate, could expose the city to a costly and time-consuming court battle, he said.

Council members will meet April 23 and could take a vote then on whether to approve the contract extension or order the mayor to allow other bids.

In the cover letter to Wood, Harden suggested that by signing the affidavit Wood would be assisting the mayor. But Peyton said Harden was not representing the city.

"I have no control of Paul's actions," Peyton said, adding that his name is often invoked in manners that he disagrees with. Peyton referred additional questions about the appropriateness of Harden's statements to city General Counsel Rick Mullaney.

Mullaney agreed the city cannot control Harden, but said any assertions that the mayor agrees with Waste Management on terms of the contract are "obviously incorrect."

"Mr. Harden's statement doesn't reflect the position of the city of Jacksonville," Mullaney said.

Mullaney said if the mayor's proposal is approved, Republic Services could sue. If the plan is not given the OK, then Waste Management will likely sue.

"In either effect," Mullaney said, "the city's interests will be appropriately and vigorously defended."

tia.mitchell@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4425