Our readers make Slabbed the good read and this post is no different as it comes courtesy of reader tips and reader assisted research. As much as I’d like to take all the credit for our Jefferson Parish coverage I can’t though I greatly appreciate the highly complimentary comments on our coverage that were left on the last Rich Rainey story on the landfill for the Times Picayune (which now appear to have been deleted), that we profiled here. Before we get to the lawsuit lets first address an insightful comment made by our friend from the jungle Curious George on the process, specifically the CPA firm hired to analyze the River Birch contract:
However, it is the subjective analyzer who can give false numbers to an honest CPA which will result in misleading conclusions and intentional fraud.
George nailed it because in an Agreed Upon Procedures Engagement only the assertions specified by management will be examined by the CPA. Thus how the question is asked is an important determinate of the answer. For example let’s pretend River Birch’s tipping fees was actually a dollar a ton cheaper than Waste Management instead of the other way around. If the question is “Does the River Birch contract contain cost savings over Waste Management?” The obvious answer is yes. Also suppose the landfill in St Bernard was $5/ton cheaper but was never considered by the Parish Council, is River Birch really the best deal? The answer is no but the question wasn’t whether the Parish’s taxpayers got the best deal. In short folks, the devil is in the details with the CPA review.
In this installment of As the Landfill Turns we’ll take a look at the Parish’s lawsuit against Waste Management, the purpose of which is to clear Waste Management out of the way so Butch Ward and company at River Birch could belly up to the taxpayer trough. The suit also helps us add data elements to the mathematical word problem we began to solve in my last landfill post so let’s again circle back to Paul Rioux’s Times Picayune story on the subject circa June 2009 to begin:
River Birch will be paid a tipping fee of $21.50 per cubic yard for household garbage from unincorporated areas of the parish and Jean Lafitte.
That’s a dollar more than the parish currently pays Waste Management to operate the parish dump, but the parish’s overhead costs to maintain and continually expand the dump are more than enough to offset the difference, Wilkinson said.
The data element that is missing from the equation is the number of tons subject to the tipping fee so we can figure Wilkinson’s “savings” on overhead. I found this in the Parish’s lawsuit against Waste Management:
….enforcing the law and contract provision limiting the maximum annual tipping fee payable by the Parish to 240,000 tons times the tipping fee.
The suit goes on to detail an alleged Waste Management overcharge saying it is at least $3,000,000 and counting which translates to another 145,000 tons plus of household waste. The tonnage does not lie and alleged overcharge relates only to not getting council approval for the extra trash that was collected. As such we’re up to 385,000 tons of trash at a dollar more per ton or $385,000 per year in overhead charges Wilkinson says he could save Parish taxpayers. Does it really cost that much to oversee the landfill contract, especially considering other costs such as woody waste disposal are not factored in?
Aside from the alleged overcharges the Parish’s suit has several pages detailing how Waste Management did not pick up trash after Katrina which I thought was funny considering Aaron Broussard’s bone headed decision to abandon the pumping stations is what caused the Jefferson Parish’s east bank flooding. I also found it slightly amusing the Traveler’s is also being sued as it must be Waste Management’s insurer.
Wlikinson and company however we not amused when Waste Management asked for an extension to file their reply around 2 weeks after the suit was served on them. I think it is clear the gang intended to play hardball with Waste Management, at least until Wilkinson and Whitmer’s double-dealing with Lagniappe Insurance came to light.
As with everything in Jefferson Parish it is the players that give color to the doings and this lawsuit is no different. The outside law firm used by the Parish is Gaudry, Ranson, Higgins & Gremillion which is Fritz Windhorst’s old law firm. Our readers no doubt remember Fritz as a long time Jefferson Parish politico whose son Steve is now a judge in the Louisiana 24th Judicial District. Mr Theriot’s lawsuit against the blogosphere was assigned to Steve Windhorst and our readers were split whether that constituted judicial shopping.
Finally there is the docket itself which is also interesting. When an employee of a law firm leaves the firm there are generally going to be cases that are in various stages of litigation that must have counsel changed midstream. This is accomplished via a routine Motion to Withdraw Counsel. As of last Friday the Parish was still being represented in this matter by disgraced former Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson. Peggy Barton is evidently too busy filing frivolous lawsuits against bloggers to be concerned with such trivialities but then again we’ve had more than one source tell us Wilkinson has left the Parish Attorneys office in name only.
In any event it not only appears the Parish’s residents are being screwed on the River Birch deal they are also paying to make it stick.
I’ve embedded the original complaint on Scribd for those so interested.
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