Opa-locka sued over trash collection decision



Progressive Waste Solutions of Florida has sued the city of Opa-locka and Ecological Paper Recycling, claiming that the city should have disqualified Ecological during their selection process for allegedly fabricating details in their application.

Progressive Waste filed the suit Oct. 4, about a week after city commissioners decided to award a bid to Ecological to provide solid waste collection and disposal services.

Progressive wants the city to award the job to Progressive or start the bidding process over without Ecological. If Progressive doesn’t get the job, the company is asking for lost profits.

Representatives from Ecological and City Attorney Joseph Geller didn’t return calls for comment.

The complaint mainly focuses on the scoring system given to the companies being considered for the contract. Progressive claims that Ecological made false statements about its experience and should have been disqualified.

“The city acted in an arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable manner when the city did not disqualify Ecological for making misrepresentations in its proposal,” according to the complaint filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

When Progressive and other applicants discovered that Ecological claimed a minority business enterprise certification, they asked city officials for a re-evaluation. Officials took back the five additional points that would have added to Ecological’s score, but the city still ranked Ecological higher than the competitors.

Carlo Piccinonna, general manager of Great Waste, agreed that the experience Ecological claimed seemed to be misrepresented.

“They are paper recyclers, and with the paper recycling plant, most of the material comes to you,” said Piccinonna, whose company is not involved in the litigation. “When you’re a garbage man, you’ve got to go get it.”

The complaint also raised issues over the handling of the bidding process by city officials. The company claims the City Commission violated Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law when it ranked the potential companies, on July 18, in a closed-door meeting without a public hearing. When a second evaluation took place, the scores were 85 percent identical, according to the complaint.

Many of these points were raised by Grant Smith, an attorney that represented Progressive during the bidding process, in both a special bid protest and a regular commission meeting on Sept. 25.

The commission voted 2-2 on a motion to grant the bid protest, with Vice Mayor Joseph Kelley absent, so the motion failed. Throughout the process the leaders needed multiple clarifications from Geller on how to proceed and what their vote would do. Piccinonna thinks that the confusion may have also occurred in their initial decision-making.

“I think the information wasn’t facilitated to them in a way that they could understand,” said Piccinonna.

Progressive will continue trash collection for the city through the end of October as Ecological was unprepared to begin their service on Oct. 1, the complaint said.

“We have legal representation here, we’re not winging this,” Mayor Myra Taylor said at the Sept. 25 meeting. “This is not our first rodeo.”

Progressive is being represented by the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Buschel & Gibbons.

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