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Wu: Sanitary district case built on old grudges

April 28, 2012|By Jack Wu

Newport Beach-centric issues are in my wheelhouse.

The $150-million symbol of government decadence (new Civic Center), the $2-million Bridge to Nowhere, or the Newport Beach City Council. If you ask me any of those issues, I'll have an opinion.

But if you asked me about something Costa Mesa-related? I wouldn't be too comfortable with it. I'd research it, but ultimately wouldn't feel comfortable enough to write coherently.

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However, something kept getting under my skin, so I started researching and making calls. And it turns out that government insanity exists in more than the Costa Mesa City Council.

But in this particular case, it exists in one of Orange County's special little districts, the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, where grudge politics have already cost the 116,700 residents of Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and sections of unincorporated Orange County tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

The issue has the potential to cost another $50,000 to $100,000 of taxpayers' money, involve the state attorney general and potentially end with an Orange County Superior Court judge removing a duly elected director of the Sanitary District.

But first let's back up.

Since 1944, according to General Manager Scott Carroll, the Sanitary District has never gone out to bid for its trash collection services. They've repeatedly signed contracts with the same company, albeit with different names, due to ownership changes, over and over for the past 68 years.

The district's current, 10-year contract with CR&R was signed in 2006, but with a six-year evergreen clause, essentially a six-year notice to CR&R if the district ever wants to go out to bid.

In 2010, Carroll gave notice to the district's board of directors that he wanted to invoke the six-year evergreen notice to CR&R to go out to bid for trash hauling in 2016, but the board unanimously declined to do so.

In late 2010, Jim Fitzpatrick was elected to the Sanitary Board and starts asking the same questions and also wants to invoke the six-year evergreen notice. And that's where the problems started.

Long story short, the other four directors want Fitzpatrick removed because they say his appointed seat on the Costa Mesa Planning Commission is in direct conflict with his elected seat on the Sanitary District board.

But Fitzpatrick says they want him out because of personality conflicts stemming from his tough lines of questions.

Who's right?

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