SAN ANGELO, TX — San Angelo City Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer took less than a couple hours to review the entire document dump about the city’s alleged lack of accountability to San Angelo businesses and to itself concerning trash bill overcharges that we provided her today. She proclaimed it ‘old news’ initially, then doubled-down, declaring our reporting to be “twisting facts” and “trashy hype trying to find a skeleton.”
“I have reviewed the records! There is no NEW news here, it has been covered, asked, answered and I'm not certain what else your question is? What would you like for me to comment on that has not been fully disclosed and answered?
“There is not any NEW news either.
“Perhaps you would be better satisfied with answers from our City Manager who is the person you should be dealing with.
“Thank you and again, have a nice day,” the city’s Mayor Pro Tem stated Thursday afternoon in an email to our investigator.
She then followed up her previous email, ripping into our reporting.
“No sir, in 24 hours I had the opportunity to review the items in question and review the monies you question and the manner in which you are twisting facts does not make it fact and is trashy hype trying to find a Skeleton.
“There is not one!
“City taxpayer money was not used for anything other than services due, audits were completed. I can't give you a scandal. Because there wasn't one.” Farmer stated in an email.
What Farmer states diverges from the earlier statements from City Attorney Brandon Dyson. Dyson said the city had no record of an official audit and could only produce a draft audit that was unsigned. Farmer claims “audits were completed,” and in previous statements to us, and in an email exchange with former Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff in 2014 that she had reviewed the audit.
Either the City is withholding documents indicating there was a completed audit or Ms. Farmer is wrong.
Which is it? We have asked the City Attorney for more clarification.
Citizens of San Angelo were shocked to learn the city has no official audit it promised of the alleged overcharging by Republic Services for over a decade for “Total Fuel/Environmental Recovery Fees” that increased commercial trash customers’ invoices significantly. The current Republic Services website states that the ERF amounts to 15 percent of the total amount charged. Farmer maintains the charges are “in the single digits” according to an audit she claims to have reviewed in 2014.
That audit cannot be found, but the City did produce an unsigned draft audit that read, “Republic had been overcharging commercial customers for many years. The total amount that had been overcharged is too great and spanned too many years to be determined.”
In 2014, Republic Services announced it will refund approximately $6.5 million to San Angelo commercial dumpster customers. The corporation did not admit guilt, but the gesture was in response to neither the City nor Republic being able to find specific city council authorization for the extra fees to be added to commercial trash customers’ invoices.
The City protects Republic from competition with exclusivity. Because of this, Republic must obtain permission via ordinance from the City Council for all of its rates and service charges.
The City has no record of to whom and what amounts Republic Services refunded.
In response to our reporting, City Manager Daniel Valenzuela requested that Republic Services account for all refunds the company stated it made. The city attorney’s office stated Republic refused to provide the information, citing “pending litigation.”
Despite known allegations of Republic Services overcharging commercial customers for over a decade, Farmer pressed the council to approve the new trash contract with Republic Services in 2014. She voted in favor of selecting Republic and rejecting the competitive bid from Texas Disposal Systems on April 1, 2014. She again voted in favor of ordinance changes that hiked all trash fees to be in accordance with the new trash agreement in July 2014, and also voted to execute the exclusive contract in July 2014.
Republic began a new 10-year exclusive trash collection and landfill management contract with the City of San Angelo August 1, 2014.
A lawsuit filed against Republic over the alleged overcharges by Texas Disposal-affiliated Acme Iron and Metal and Mayfield Paper has been stalled in the 119th District Court since late 2015.
Farmer declared her candidacy for mayor in the May 6 election on Jan. 19.
More reporting on the trash controversy:
- Internal Documents Reveal City’s Lax Oversight of Republic Services
- A Big, Wet Kiss: The City’s $342,569.90 Remittance to Republic Services
- Republic Services Clams Up After City Demands Answers
This story was updated Friday morning to report Farmer’s additional statements about our reporting being “trashy hype.”