Honesty & Courage Or Lack Thereof Among Toro, Echevarria & Smith Will Control Flow Of Colton’s Millions To CR&R

Twenty-seven years after Colton entered into a corruption-encrusted franchise arrangement with its current trash hauler’s corporate predecessor that prompted the firing of a former city manager and indirectly led to the federal indictments of four of its former council members, it is uncertain whether the current city manager and city council majority will consent to a competitive bid process for the franchise when the contract expires after its third decade in 2026 or whether they will submit to a combination of pressure and temptation to extend the exclusive franchise contract until 2036.
With the matter steeped in pay-to-play implications, City Manager Bill Smith, who is said to privately favor putting the franchise out to bid, has so far receded from making such a recommendation because three of the current members of the council may be disposed toward renewing CR&R’s contract to provide trash service to the 54,911-population, 16.06-square mile city’s residential, commercial and industrial customers. Councilwoman Kelly Chastain, who 18 years ago went along with extending the franchise as it approached its ten-year anniversary, is widely considered to be in the pocket of CR&R and is again militating toward a franchise extension without any bidding process. Councilman David Toro in 2015 acquiesced in the extension of CR&R’s contract and appears to be leaning toward doing so once again. Councilman John Echevarria has assiduously avoided engaging in any discussion with regard to the franchise extension and his silence on the matter is interpreted by many that he will support foreclosing, as early as later this year, the city’s solicitation of bids in 2024 or 2025 for the franchise to run from 2026 to 2036, and instead join with Chastain and Toro in allowing CR&R to retain the exclusive right to haul trash in Colton for another decade.
At stake in whether the city will conduct an open bid on the ten-year franchise is millions of dollars in fees to be paid by customers over the life of the franchise contract as well as the quality of the service to be provided. CR&R, like Republic Industries before it and like Taormina Industries before that, was able to count upon the willingness of Colton’s elected officials to take money from its franchised refuse handler in exchange for the city agreeing to terms contained within the franchise contract that financially benefited the company to the disadvantage of the city and its ratepayers.
Founded in 1887 as San Bernardino County’s second incorporated city, Colton quickly evolved into being one of the region’s most mature civic entities as a full-service municipality, with its own police department, fire department, water division, sewer system, electrical utility, cemetery, landfill and sanitation division. In 1995, under then-Mayor George Fulp, the city undertook to dissolve its sanitation division and privatize trash service, effectuating the conversion the following year.
As part of the privatization process, the city commissioned the R.W. Beck Company, an Arizona-based firm, to conduct a request for proposals from Southern California-based trash haulers and evaluate the fitness of the applicants for taking on Colton’s trash hauling assignment. R.W. Beck returned a recommendation that the city bestow the franchise upon Fontana-based Burrtec Industries after determining it was the most suitable of the seven applicants for the franchise.
Shortly after R.W. Beck delivered that recommendation, however, Mayor Fulp insisted upon the city council holding a closed-door meeting with R.W. Beck principal Richard Tagore-Erwin. During that closed door meeting, outside the view of the public, Fulp, along with then-councilmen Don Sanders and Abe Beltran, strong-armed Tagore-Erwin, pressuring him to alter R.W. Beck’s recommendation. After a two-week interim, during which Toarmina lobbyist Gil Lara went to work on Tagore-Erwin and the four other members of the city council, R.W. Beck delivered a second evaluation of the competition for the franchise contract, elevating its estimation of the proposal made by Industry-based Taormina Industries, previously ranked third in the competition, to a rough equivalency with the earlier-delivered rating of Burrtec’s qualifications. Based upon this second recommendation, Fulp, Sanders and Beltran convinced Councilwoman Deirdre Bennett to join them in supporting Taormina, whereupon Councilwoman Betty Cook and Councilman David Sandoval moved with the flow, such that by a 6-to-1 margin, with Councilman John Hutton dissenting, the city council on May 16, 1996 voted to confer the franchise contract upon Taormina.
A firestorm of controversy erupted, but shortly thereafter the dismantling of the city’s sanitation division was finalized, and Taormina assumed the status of the city’s franchised domestic trash hauler. Before the year was out, a successful recall effort against Fulp materialized and he was removed from office and replaced by Karl Gaytan.
Meanwhile, the city’s then-police chief, Bernie Lunsford, and then-city attorney, Julie Biggs, referencing irregularities that had occurred in the trash franchise contract bidding competition, persuaded the council to hire former Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Mark McDonald to carry out an investigation into the matter. Ultimately, McDonald delivered his findings, which popularly became known as the McDonald Report, which scathingly identified a rigged bidding process marred by Taormina’s provision of inducements, characterized by McDonald as “tantamount to bribes” to Fulp, Beltran and Sanders, as well as conduct on the part Fulp’s hand-picked city manager, Malik Freeman, and then-assistant city manager Daryl Parrish, which resulted in the contract being steered to Taormina despite R.W. Beck’s first straightforward determination that its proposal was inferior to that put forth by Burrtec and Waste Management, Inc. McDonald stated in the report that Parrish acknowledged he recognized rigging the awarding of the contract in such a way that the franchise was given to a company that had been outperformed by two of its competitors was highly improper but that he had gone along with what had been done because he had “mouths to feed” and could not afford to lose his job.
The first direct casualty of the McDonald Report was Freeman, who was terminated by the council in an effort to stem the public outrage based upon the report’s narrative describing him as taking an active role in carrying out Fulp’s, Beltran’s and Sanders’ bidding in vectoring the contract to Taormina. Parrish, whose transgressions in the matter were acts of omission rather than commission, was suspended but not terminated.
The report, which was provided to the FBI, resulted in investigations into the political situation in Colton and reports of graft, bribery and payoffs at City Hall. Beltran, who had been prosecuted by the district attorney’s office in 1996 and voted out of office at the time that Fulp was recalled, was implicated in criminal activity and acts of political corruption tracked by the FBI, as was Sanders and, eventually, Fulp’s successor as mayor, Karl Gaytan. Fulp, who departed from California shortly after his political career in Colton ended, was not prosecuted, although there were hints, never confirmed, that he had cooperated with the FBI. The FBI assembled criminal cases against Beltran, Sanders, Gaytan and another Colton councilman, James Grimsby, who came into office in a recall election in 1997 and in short order began tapping into the cycle of graft that ultimately felled Beltran, Sanders and Gaytan. All were convicted and forced to leave office.
While the focus of the McDonald Report and portions of FBI investigation included the illicit inducements to Fulp, Sanders and Beltran that led to Taormina’s success in achieving the trash hauling franchise in Colton, no prosecutorial authority charged Taormina or its officials with a crime. A Colton community activist, the Reverend Steve Anderson, lobbed charges that the company had used “mob tactics,” including bribery and intimidation, in obtaining the franchise contract. Taormina filed legal action against Anderson, which ultimately served to ward off any further public outcry over the circumstances that had led to the awarding of the franchise contract to Taormina.
Because of the constant need for refuse handling and the consideration that Taormina had a lock on the franchise, early talk about rescinding the council’s vote that conferred the franchise on Taormina ended and no serious effort was ever made by the council to rebid the contract. Eventually, owners William and Vincent Taormina agreed to merge Taormina Industries Inc. with Republic Industries, Inc. in exchange for 6.5 million shares of Republic stock, which was then valued at $250 million. Republic Industries is the second largest non-hazardous solid waste management company in the United States after Waste Management, Inc.
In 2005, with the ten-year anniversary of the trash franchise approaching, Republic was able to coax then-Mayor Deirdre Bennett, one of Fulp’s protégés, and the rest of the city council, consisting at that point of Councilman Ramon Hernandez, Councilman Richard DeLaRosa, Councilwoman Kelly Chastain, Councilwoman Helen Ramos, Councilman John Mitchell, and Councilman Isaac Suchil, out of considering conducting an open bid process on the city’s refuse-handling arrangement. This was effectuated, in large measure through generosity in endowing the city leaders respective campaign funds.
By 2014, Republic Industries and its corporate predecessor had held the Colton trash-hauling franchise contract, serving essentially as the City of Colton’s privatized sanitation division, for 18 years. With the franchise due to elapse in 2016, the concept of putting the franchise out to bid surfaced in that year’s election. Frank Gonzales, Colton’s longtime mayor who had been defeated by Fulp in 1994 election, had made a comeback as a city official in 2010, when he was elected to the city council. Four years later, in 2014, he again sought election as mayor, facing Richard DeLaRosa, who had served two terms on the city council from 2002 until 2010. During his campaign, Gonzales sought to make an issue of the city’s automatic renewal of the trash franchise. He called for putting out a request for proposals to as many regional trash hauling companies as the city could, to effectuate a competitive bid process for the refuse hauling contract. Consequently, Republic Industries threw its support behind DeLaRosa in his mayoral campaign.
Simultaneously, in August 2014, Republic Industries pledged a $40,000 donation to the city to secure an exclusive opportunity to open negotiations with the city on the extension of the franchise contract. At the behest of Public Works Director Amer Jakher, who at that point had been elevated into the position of acting city manager, the city council accepted the money, with most council members stating that the city could still go out to bid.
In November of that year, Gonzales lost the 2014 mayoral election to DeLaRosa.
In the immediate aftermath of his election victory, DeLaRosa began pressing the city council to bypass any sort of competitive bid process as the council began a progression toward addressing the 2016 expiration of the trash hauling franchise contract.
In rejecting the opportunity to compare bids upfront, Colton put Jakher into a weak bargaining position. Other companies were prepared to offer Colton terms that substantially bettered anything Republic put on the table. Representatives of other companies told the Sentinel they were anxious to bid on the Colton contract and that they were aware of the terms under discussion in Colton and were prepared to provide better service at lower cost than Republic had committed to. They also said they made this clear to Colton officials.
Among those companies was Athens Services, which in 2013 had been awarded the contract with the County of San Bernardino to operate county landfills. Athens was particularly interested in establishing service areas in San Bernardino County and was prepared to underbid and outservice Republic to the point that it would have been willing to operate at close to cost to achieve the Colton contract. Colton never entertained any overtures from companies other than Republic.
Previously, refuse from Colton had been deposited into a landfill within Colton and the city received a host “tipping fee” from San Bernardino County, which owned the landfill, for accepting trash into the landfill within its borders. But the county shuttered the Colton landfill, ending that revenue stream to the city. In 2012, as Republic was looking ahead to ensure that it kept its Colton contract, the company offered to provide Colton $140,000 per year to replace the lost tipping fees from the Colton landfill closure. In addition, it offered to forego annual consumer price index increases for the last three years of the contract. This offer was predicated on Colton allowing Republic to haul the trash to its own landfill in Brea, which provided Republic with substantial savings. At that time, the council rejected Republic’s offer and decided to continue Colton’s waste disposal agreement with San Bernardino County, resulting in the trash being taken to the county’s Mid-Valley Landfill.
From the time the Colton City Council voted against Republic’s 2012 offer until 2015, Colton ratepayers experienced three separate Consumer Price Index increases, including a 4.25 percent increase in 2014. Inexplicably, in its 2015 negotiations with Jakher, Republic kept the Consumer Price Index rate hikes totaling almost 8 percent while convincing the city to allow Republic to take the trash to its preferred landfill in Brea.
In its negotiations with Republic, Colton also lost $140,000 in yearly waste disposal fees, which Colton had been receiving from the county. This money was provided as a consequence of the county’s waste disposal agreement with 14 of the cities in the county that use county landfills. For using the county’s landfills, those cities are given a discounted rate less than the gate fee haulers bringing trash in from outside the county are required to pay. The difference between the regular gate fee and the negotiated waste disposal agreement rate is referred to as the waste disposal agreement rebate. While some cities in the county receive the entire waste disposal agreement rebate, the arrangement arrived at between Colton and Republic in 2015 provided Colton with only $4.24 of the $8.19 per ton rebate when Colton trash was reposited into a county landfill, and Republic kept the rest. Moreover, the contract extension allowed Republic to divert Colton’s trash to a landfill operated by Republic, depriving Colton of the $140,000 rebate altogether.
Ultimately, pursuant to the 2015 agreement, Republic offered, and Jakher and the city council accepted, an offer which provided Colton with $210,000 for “street sweeping” and $80,000 for “tree trimming” and $30,000 per year in “host city” fees, along with a small increase in the administrative fee, estimated at between $15,000 and $20,000 yearly that Colton received for handling residential billing for Republic and now for CR&R. Republic further agreed to return five percent of its revenue – quantified at roughly $360,000 in 2015 dollars– to the city for street repairs to make up for the damage caused by its trash trucks.
In July 2015, Mayor DeLaRosa, Councilman David Toro and councilwomen Deirdre Bennett and Summer Jorrin voted to extend the trash hauling franchise agreement with Republic Industries for ten years, into 2026, with councilmen Frank Navarro, Isaac Suchil and Luis Gonzalez (no blood relation to Frank Gonzales) dissenting.
Comparisons with deals closed elsewhere showed the degree to which Jakher and the city had been outnegotiated. In Fullerton, for example, customers were paying 78 percent of what customers in Colton were paying per month for trash service. In Cypress, where the city invited proposals from trash companies, five companies bid on the project and the end result was that homeowners there, in 2015, paid $12.97 monthly for collections, or 54.5 percent of the $23.79 monthly for weekly trash pick-up Colton residents were paying in 2015 for the same service.
In reality, the one-time $540,000 Republic offered to return to Colton in the form of street sweeping, tree trimming service, road repair and host fees was dwarfed by what other cities obtained in exchange for their trash franchises. Athens paid West Covina $2 million plus $100,000 in additional yearly community contributions for an additional 25-year extension. In Covina, Athens paid $2 million plus a $200,000 annual contribution for a 20-year deal. In Chino Hills, where residents in 2015 paid a $17.38 per month rate for trash service compared to the $23.79 residents in Colton paid, the residential rates were guaranteed to escalate to not more than $21.59 by the end of the contract in 2021. In 2010 Republic paid the city of Chino Hills $500,000 to lock in that contract for an additional five years, even though that extension wasn’t scheduled to begin until 2016.
Colton missed the boat with the deal it closed with Republic in 2015 in another way, as well. It was known at that time that Republic was in separate negotiations with CR&R, Inc., another waste hauling and recycling company, for the sale of its Colton operations. This rendered Republic into a very vulnerable and delicate position in its negotiations with Colton, in that if it did not maintain the Colton franchise, it would have nothing to sell to CR&R. Thus, Colton could have pressed for a host of concessions from Republic, such as reductions in the rates to be paid by either or both domestic and business customers or a limitation on the per year maximum percentage increase in those rates over the life of the contract. The city could have also, had it chosen to do so, insisted upon an ownership transfer clause in the contract that would have required a one-time payment of anywhere from, for example, $100,000 to $500,000 to $1 million, if Republic were to sell off its Colton operation. Despite that opportunity, neither Jackher nor the mayor and city council insisted on any of those provisions or similar one being put into the contract.
Even more notably, Jackher and the mayor and council failed to ask for what Frank Gonzales had suggested during his 2014 mayoral run, which was a million dollars in an upfront franchise fee and another $250,000 per year more in pass-through franchise revenues going forward.
In the summer of 2015, after the deal with Republic was finalized, Mayor DeLaRosa was confronted about the less than resolute fashion in which his administration had negotiated on behalf of the city and its ratepayers, which provoked a curious response in which he sought to justify the terms of the agreement to extend the franchise contract while suggesting that its less-than-ideal terms were a product of the previous mayoral administration of Sarah Zamora, under whom the negotiations with Republic had been initiated.
“The prior council had acted to start the negotiations with the current hauler and that put us in the position where we had to negotiate with the current hauler first,” he said. Nevertheless, he insisted, “From the dais, we on the council did our best. We did our due diligence. Over the more than a year it took to negotiate this contract including right up to the very last meeting where we approved it, we told them [Republic] we wanted more. We asked for changes several times, for them to put different things on the table. I don’t know how much more you can negotiate or who else you can put in place to negotiate beside the city manager and the public works director. Those two people were in place. It is hard to say whether by being more hardnosed we would have gotten more. Everything the council asked for they gave us. There is no concrete or tangible number we can look at to compare what we could have gotten. We could have gotten a better rate. We could have gotten a worst rate. It goes both ways. I believe we kept the rates low.”
DeLaRosa said Colton had not responded to overtures from other trash hauling companies offering rates and terms that were more favorable than those provided by Republic in large measure because “The tone of these negotiations was set last year prior to me being on the council. The agreement was we would not enter into negotiations with other companies while we were considering contract proposals from Republic. We could not hold formal discussions with other companies because we had an agreement to look at the current hauler first. We could not formally look at any other numbers. The previous council accepted that in 2013 and 2014.”
Asked if he considered going three decades without a bid process wise, DeLaRosa said, “At least four of us on the council felt there was not a need to go out for a request for proposals because they met what our expectations were. What we asked for is what we got, including host fees and money coming in for other purposes. I don’t regret the decision.”
In the years since, however, DeLaRosa’s perspective may have changed, as the terms contained in the city’s trash hauling franchise contract – ones that are tangibly and demonstrably inferior to those contained in virtually all such contracts among municipalities in San Bernardino County and Southern California – are widely considered to be a black mark upon DeLaRosa and his mayoral administration. By the early spring of 2017, Republic Industries had sold its Colton operation – lock, stock and barrel – to CR&R, Inc. In very short order, ratepayers throughout the city, including domestic and business customers, noted a diminution in the quality of service. The perception was that DeLaRosa was primarily responsible for the state of affairs as many recognized that he had come into office with the financial support of Republic Industries, and that he had then refused to utilize his gravitas and authority as mayor to insist on a competitive bidding process on the refuse handling franchise, resulting in Republic retaining the contract and then rapidly moving to sell its Colton assets and operation at a tremendous profit.
In 2018, amid suggestions that he had sold his constituents out in return for campaign money from Republic to enable him to defeat Frank Gonzales in 2014 and that his vote on the city council in 2005 to extend Republic’s franchise contract was equally suspect, DeLaRosa opted out of seeking reelection as mayor, stating he was departing “to make way for new visions.”
At present, CR&R is seeking to preemptively preclude any discussion of an open bid process for Colton’s trash franchise taking place with regard to the decade after the current contract expires in 2026. Corporate officials are hoping they can do so by having the current city council, which was reduced from seven to five members last year, quietly undertake a consideration of the contract extension and, with as little warning to Colton’s residents as possible, hold a brief public hearing and conduct a vote to extend the franchise contract until 2036, effectively allowing Taormina and its corporate successors Republic and CR&R, to monopolize the city’s trash franchise for 40 years without any open competitive bid process beyond the original one, tainted by the graft documented in the McDonald Report, that took place in 1996.
That action could take place as early as November 1, when the city council is scheduled to convene a specially-called meeting. The agenda for the November 1 meeting has not been released. According to a well-informed source at City Hall, however, that meeting is intended as a council/general public workshop at which the trash franchise situation beyond the current contract period is to be the sole topic of discussion. Word is that CR&R is looking to stack the meeting with at least a dozen and perhaps more than a score of city residents and business owners, including those paid to lobby on behalf of the company, to provide the city council with sufficient “political cover” to vote on the spot to extend CR&R’s Colton trash hauling franchise to 2036.
Remarkably, three of the current city council members, comprising a majority vote of the panel, appear to be primed to support the franchise contract extension.
Councilwoman Kelly Chastain, who, following a 12-year absence, was reelected to the council last year after a ten-year run as councilwoman between 1996 and 2006 and four years as mayor from 2006 to 2010, has come out in favor of extending the franchise contract. Chastain has seized upon CR&R’s offer to waive the rate adjustment the company would be due in 2024 if the city foregoes a competitive bid process and confers the 10-year franchise extension on CR&R. CR&R and both of its corporate predecessors, Taormina and Republic, have proved to be major donors to Chastain’s electioneering fund over the course of her political career.
David Toro was first elected to the city council in 2006 and reelected in 2010. He was maintained in office in 2014, 2018 and again in 2022 without opposition. In 2015, he was one of the four votes to extend Republic’s trash franchise without a competitive bid process. He is known to be familiar with complaints about the poor quality of CR&R’s service that have surfaced over the last five years. Nevertheless, he has given indication that he will go along with ratifying its contract extension without a competitive bidding process if two other votes on the council manifest to that effect.
A third probable vote in favor of CR&R appears to be that of Councilman John Echevarria, who was first elected to the council in 2020 to represent District 5 when the council was yet composed of four council members and the mayor. He was reelected to the council in 2022, to the that of District 4 Councilman as the body made its transition to a five-member panel, consisting of four councilors and the mayor.
Echevarria was not on the council during either of the two previous votes to extend Republic’s franchise. Curiously, he has avoided being engaged on the subject of the franchise, what the terms and conditions of the franchise should be, what performance criteria CR&R should meet and what concessions CR&R should make with regard to rates for the city to consider extending the franchise contract without conducting a competitive bid. This week, when the Sentinel contacted him by email in an effort to get him to lay out his position with regard to the franchise and whether he supported carrying out a competitive bidding process or, in the alternative, was willing to have CR&R maintain the franchise through a negotiated arrangement with the city, Echevarria declined to comment, directing the Sentinel to “reach out to our city appointed public information officer, Debra Farrar.” Farrar was not available for any response.
Mayor Frank Navarro, who at that time was a councilman, and Councilman Luis Gonzalez in July 2015 were two of the three votes in opposition to extending Republic’s franchise without engaging first in a competitive bid process. Both remain adamantly opposed to allowing CR&R to maintain its exclusive trash hauling franchise with the city without being subject to an exacting comparison of what other refuse handlers will offer as an alternative.
The most cursory examination of the terms in Colton’s franchise contract in comparison to the service provided to residential, commercial and industrial customers in other cities demonstrates that Colton’s residents are at a distinct disadvantage to virtually every other municipality in San Bernardino County and practically all of the county’s unincorporated communities, as well.
An examination of just a handful of particulars illustrates this reality. One consideration is the automatic rate increase that Colton residents and businesses are subject to in their trash collection service bills. Most cities allow their franchised hauler to impose an annual increase not to exceed 3 percent. In Colton, that increase is tied to the consumer price index, with no maximum, such that rates have escalated in recent years by as much as 8 percent.
Commercial and industrial businesses in Colton pay more for trash service than those in any other city or town in the county.
As was the case in 2015, Athens Services, is yet seeking to establish trash pick-up contracts in San Bernardino County. Eight years ago, after having obtained the contract to operate the County of San Bernardino’s landfills, it was hoping to expand its trash hauling operations to include any of a number of cities in the county. At that time, Athens was willing to seriously underbid Republic in an effort to capture the Colton account. Because of the DeLaRosa-led council’s decision not to but the project out to bid in 2015, however, city officials were never given a glimpse of the financial savings Republic would offer the city’s ratepayers or the franchise fees it would be willing to pay the city.
Similarly, Burrtec, which previously had the county landfill managing contract and is San Bernardino County’s most prolific trash hauler, was itching to put its best foot forward in seeking to gain the Colton trash hauling franchise it lost when the underhanded tactics described in the McDonald Report were brought bear to steer the franchise to Taormina.
Burrtec at present has plum franchises in the six largest of San Bernardino County’s 24 cities – San Bernardino, Fontana, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Victorville and Rialto. The company also has franchises in ten of the county’s other municipalities – Apple Valley, Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley, Yucaipa, Adelanto, Upland, Grand Terrace, Redlands, Montclair and Barstow. Additionally, it is the franchised garbage handler in the unincorporated San Bernardino County communities of Amboy, Angeles Oaks, Yermo, Victorville, Valley of Enchantment, Twin Peaks, Arrowbear, Baker, Barton Flats, Bloomington, Blue Jay, Skyforest, Silver Lakes, Cedar Glen, Cedarpines Park, Cima, Crestline, Daggett, Del Rosa, Devore, Dumont Dunes, El Rancho Verde, Forest Falls, Fort Irwin, San Antonio Heights, Running Springs, Nipton, Oak Glen, Newberry Springs, Mount Baldy, Mountain Pass, Halloran, Helendale, Hinkley, Kelso, Lake Arrowhead, Lenwood, Landers, Lucerne Valley, Ludlow and Mentone.
Both Athens and Burrtec will compete for the Colton franchise as will Waste Management, Inc., which currently is the franchise trash hauler in Chino Hills, Chino and in the six of San Bernardino County’s Western Mojave Desert communities: Trona, Kramer Junction, Red Mountain, Boron, Windy Acres and Four Corners.
In February 2015, William Smith, who had been Colton’s community service director for nearly 11 years, was elevated to the position of city manager on a narrow 4-to-3 vote. At that time, discussion with regard to what was going to be done about the city’s trash hauling franchise, set to expire the following year, was ongoing behind closed doors. His instincts, professional judgment and experience told him that the city should be putting the contract out to bid. The political reality, however, was that the mayor, DeLaRosa, had been elected with the backing of Republic Industries and he was militating, quietly in the back channels of City Hall, toward perpetuating that company’s hold on the franchise. As had been articulated by one of Smith’s predecessors as city manager, Darryl Parrish, to Mark McDonald some 18 years previously, he knew that the machinations in favor of Republic Industries were improper, but he had mouths to feed and he couldn’t afford to lose his job. Instead of forcefully advocating on behalf of putting the franchise contract out to bid, Smith allowed the council to steer its own course, which resulted, ultimately, in the 4-to-3 vote to rollover Republic’s franchise contract.
Eight years later, Smith is caught up in a sense of deja vu. Last time, three members of the council – Navarro, Gonzalez and Suchil – were committed to putting the contract out to bid, DeLaRosa and Bennett were equally committed to preventing a competitive bidding process from taking place and two others on the council could have gone in either direction but seemed to be leaning in favor of letting Republic get what it wanted. Now, with the council reduced from seven to five, Navarro and Gonzalez remain in favor of subjecting the city’s trash hauling franchise to a competitive process and Chastain wants to allow CR&R to have its way with the city and its ratepayers and two of the council members could go either way.
A city official this week told the Sentinel, “Bill [Smith] is in favor of carrying out competitive bidding for the franchise, but he can’t risk making that recommendation. He doesn’t know where David [Toro] and John [Echevarria] stand on this. They just might be going right down the line with CR&R. If he calls for putting this out to bid, he could end up fired.”
According to the official, “Everyone knows where Kelly Chastain is on this. CR&R owns her. It’s hard for me to believe that David has taken money under the table from CR&R or before that, Republic. He’s a good guy, but naive sometimes. And John? He’s a police lieutenant, for Christ’s sake. You would never think that he’s getting greased. But there’s no denying Taormina had a formula. Look at it: The company was outperformed in the original competition, and it still got the franchise. We know that was because people were paid off. Ten years later, it got the franchise again, without having to compete. Ten years after that, the franchise was renewed with no competition. They’ve got a formula. They hand out money and they get what they want. It’s hard to believe people are being paid off. No one wants to think people are being paid off. But something isn’t right. Ask yourself: ‘Why haven’t they put this out to bid?’ It’s a no-brainer. The worst that could happen is we go through the process, and it comes back that CR&R is the best deal, and we stay with them. The upside is we open it up to a fair contest and we can cut millions of dollars, literally millions of dollars, off of what we will pay for trash pick-up for the upcoming ten years. The city could ask for an increase in its franchise fee and almost be guaranteed to get it. Why didn’t the council do that before? Why don’t they want to do it now? Is somebody getting paid off? Who? That’s why Bill can’t publicly come out and say that this should go out to bid. He probably can’t even say that privately. If Bill gets in the way or if he embarrasses someone by doing the right thing, he could be out the door tomorrow.”
Neither Smith nor Toro nor Chastain responded to Sentinel invitations to discuss issues relating to the city’s trash franchise.

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