JaxPoliticsOnline.com

Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Trail Ridge Memories

Monday’s Florida Times-Union featured an article discussing the conflicting memories of three of the participants who had first-hand knowledge of the original Waste Management negotiations with the City of Jacksonville in regards to the Trail Ridge Landfill.  Two of the participants—Douglas Wood, the City’s former Deputy Director of Public Utilities, and James O’Conner, Waste Management’s former President of Southeast Operations—contend that the City only intended for the original contract to cover the current 150-acre landfill.  (Of course, it should be mentioned that O’Conner is now the CEO of Republic Services, Waste Management’s chief rival throughout the United States.)  The City’s former Director of Public Utilities, Allan Williams, has taken the opposite point of view, stating that he believes the original contract was for the entire 977-acre site.

What is particularly odd about one of the things shared in the Times-Union’s article is the impression that is created that the City appears to have been working in conjunction with Waste Management to bolster Waste Management’s claim that the original contract was for the entire 977-acre site, despite the Mayor’s Office and the Office of General Counsel public statements [in regards to the original contract] to the contrary.  This theory is in line with an original assertion made by one of my fellow bloggers on JaxPoliticsOnline.com that the Mayor’s Office has been coordinating efforts with Waste Management.  Douglas Wood’s story would seem to lend credence to that:

He said Alan Mosley, the city’s chief administrative officer, contacted him a couple of months ago to ask what he recalled about the intent of the original contract. Soon after, Wood said, he received a letter from Waste Management lobbyist Paul Harden that also included an affidavit drafted on Wood’s behalf.

Harden’s draft asserted that Wood supported Waste Management’s side.

“I hope you are in a position to sign the affidavit and return it to me,” Harden wrote. “It would be of great assistance to Mayor Peyton.”

Wood said he didn’t sign it because he didn’t agree with it. Instead, he drafted his own affidavit that took the opposite position and sent it to the General Counsel’s Office.

“The intent of the [request for proposals] was to provide landfill capacity for a 20-year period,” Wood wrote. “The City of Jacksonville selected a qualified bidder and entered into a contract for the 20-year period.”

Another interesting viewpoint to consider would be the views of Dan Richardson.  Mr. Richardson was the General Counsel for the City of Jacksonville during the original Trail Ridge negotiations and would have been familiar with the terms of the contract.  Because of his involvement with the original contract, Mr. Richardson was forced to obtain a waiver from the City of Jacksonville to work on behalf of Republic Services.  The City granted that waiver.  Days after receiving that waiver, however, Mr. Richardson was quoted in Folio Weekly sharing his recollection of the original contract negotiations—and sharing that he had been under the impression that the contract was limited to the 150-acre landfill.  According to the Times-Union, Chief Deputy General Counsel Cindy Laquidara moved to quickly rescind Mr. Richardson’s waiver, a move viewed by many as punishment to Mr. Richardson for complicating the City’s attempt to make its case to the public.  

Only a few months after Mr. Richardson’s waiver was rescinded, the City began seeking affidavits that would bolster Waste Management’s case. At that same time, the Mayor stepped in to personally ask several of Republic Services lobbyists, including his former Spokesperson Susie Wiles, to drop their efforts to oppose his initiative.  They did.

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