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Council to Reconsider Trash-Hauling Deal

Garbage: Moorpark officials thought U.S.A. Waste Services would take over G.I. Industries' contract. But controversial Western Waste is involved.

November 05, 1996|DAVID R. BAKER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MOORPARK — Concerned that they don't know who exactly would collect Moorpark's trash, City Council members are rethinking their decision to transfer the city's exclusive garbage-hauling contract.

The council voted to let G.I. Industries--which collects trash in Moorpark, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and parts of the unincorporated county--transfer its contract to U.S.A. Waste Services, a Dallas-based firm hoping to buy G.I. The sale of G.I. is part of the company's bankruptcy reorganization.

Since the council's Sept. 4 vote, however, the city manager's office has determined that once the sale is complete, G.I. officials would report to executives at Western Waste Industries, a Torrance-based firm recently acquired by U.S.A. Waste.

Western Waste has been implicated in several political corruption cases, leading Thousand Oaks officials to reject transferring their city's garbage-hauling contract to the company. If Moorpark also decides to protest the transfer, it could further complicate the sale of G.I. Industries, which a bankruptcy court judge is set to review next week.

Moorpark's council members plan to discuss the transfer of its garbage contract at their Wednesday meeting, and may change their earlier decision.

"We just don't know who we're dealing with," said Councilman John Wozniak.

Wozniak said that when he and Councilman Pat Hunter met with officials of G.I. and U.S.A. Waste in August, he believed that control of G.I. would go directly to U.S.A. after the proposed sale. Western Waste made an initial offer to purchase G.I. Industries of Simi Valley, but U.S.A. purchased Western Waste in May.

"I came away from that meeting feeling warm and cozy that Western Waste was out of the picture," Wozniak said.

In fact, Western Waste still exists as a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S.A. Waste. According to E. William Hutton, regional counsel for U.S.A., G.I. executives will report to Les Bittenson, who is both the president of Western Waste and a regional vice president for U.S.A. Waste.

Hutton said, however, that the Moorpark council had the right idea the first time around and that final control over G.I. will rest with U.S.A. Waste.

"U.S.A. makes the decisions on who sits on the board of Western Waste," he said, adding that the company "exercises complete control over G.I. The existence of Western Waste in the middle of this is essentially meaningless."

Furthermore, Hutton said Monday that the chain of command among the three companies was spelled out in a June letter to the city.

Wozniak said he was unsure whether he would still approve transferring the contracts at Wednesday's meeting.

Councilwoman Eloise Brown said that with no other trash companies asking for the job, the council may have little choice but to stick with G.I. and Western Waste, even if the allegations of wrongdoing are troubling.

"I'm not sure we can deal with the higher moral questions right now," she said. "I think we have to make sure the trash is picked up."

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