Trash firm sues Oakland over $1 billion contract

Waste Management, the country’s largest trash hauler, filed suit Monday alleging that the Oakland City Council violated the public trust and acted illegally by awarding a $1 billion garbage contract to a local firm.

In its suit in Alameda County Superior Court, Waste Management claims that the City Council “appeared heavily swayed by long-term personal and political connections” in voting last week to award the contract, which starts next July 1, to California Waste Solutions of Oakland.

Waste Management, which is based in Houston, said the council ignored the recommendation by the city administrator’s office that the city not contract with California Waste Solutions because it will have to build new facilities, buy new equipment and develop billing systems to provide the service that Waste Management has provided for more than 100 years.

Waste Management said the City Council:

“… has violated the public trust and put the citizens of Oakland at risk by illegally manipulating and abandoning its self-imposed procurement process by awarding contracts for solid waste collection and disposal services to a company whose proposals were untimely, non-conforming, based on a competitor’s confidential information and insufficient to meet the city’s zero waste services goals.”

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan issued a news release last Wednesday night hailing the council’s 7-1 vote to give the contract to California Waste Solutions, saying:

“This will support local jobs and invest in a local, minority-owned business. … With this contract Oakland is taking an historic step toward fulfilling our goal of zero waste, and signing one of the greenest garbage contracts in the country, diverting more waste away from our landfills and dramatically reducing our greenhouse gases.”

According to Quan, California Waste Solutions was founded in Oakland in 1990 by David Duong and his family. Quan said the contract calls for the average rate increase to garbage customers in Oakland to be about 23 percent, which she said is less than half the increase that had been proposed by the bids the city received and presented in May.

The increase is the first in Oakland in 15 years, she said. Families that switch from a 32-gallon bin to a 20-gallon bin will see a rate increase of less than $3 a month, according to Quan.

Quan and other city officials couldn’t be reached for comment today on Waste Management’s lawsuit over the contract, which is for the next 20 to 30 years.

The giant company said in its suit that it spent $1 million over two years to generate proposals to comply with Oakland’s “zero waste” goal and “become one of the greenest cities in the country.”

But Waste Management alleged that the City Council “torpedoed” the process by ignoring city staff members’ recommendations and awarding the contract to California Waste Solutions. The suit seeks a court order to undo the City Council’s vote and award the contract to Waste Management.