Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Mayor’s legal position on Waste Management no-bid contract crumbles

Lots of good information from the Times Union this morning on the Waste Management no-bid contract to operate the Trail Ridge landfill (here,  herehere, and Littlepage is here).  IMO, the most notable information coming out of the articles (other than Michael Munz wanting the world to know he is representing Advance Disposal on the issue of the no bid contract) focused on the Mayor’s statements that this is a contract extension (and therefore does not need to be bid out) and the strength of any lawsuit that Waste Management might bring should the contract not be extended and given to them without bidding.

The Times Union asked Professor Cleveland Ferguson to review the 1991 contract. He is an associate professor at the school and teaches courses on contracts, commercial law and state constitutional law.

After reviewing the 29-page document, Ferguson concurred that the agreement expires at the life of the landfill. There are no expressed terms in the contract giving Waste Management the right to manage the entire site.

He said that, if he were a city lawyer, he would feel confident putting Trail Ridge out for bids.

The contract language makes it clear that both parties agreed in 1991 that Waste Management was obtaining rights to operate a landfill facility and not the entire site, Ferguson said. A clause that gives the city the right to use the site for other municipal solid waste management also seems to bolster the city’s position, he said.

Ferguson also points out that the contract even makes provision for any perceived ambiguities. The contract says that any “doubtful or ambiguous provisions” should not be construed against the party that created the agreement, the city.

The professor wondered if the long-standing agreement has created such a symbiotic relationship with the city that the company has overreached.

“There might be a comfort level where the contractor believes it has more authority than it actually does,” Ferguson said. “But that doesn’t give them any more legal standing to enlarge their operations.” [Times Union]

And there you have it – an unbiased legal opinion on the issue.  Mr. Mayor, bid the contract out.  According to Professor Ferguson it appears you have no legal grounds not to do so.


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