In new complaints, attorneys for Waste Management Environmental Center (WM) are asking the United States District Court in Mobile for an injunction against the city’s Solid Waste Authority, seeking to hold the authority in contempt for failing to honor a federal district court ruling and continued breach of a 1993 contract.
In one of two filings dated Friday, Feb. 10, Jaime Betbeze, an attorney for WM, asked the court to step in two months after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that found roughly half of the city’s waste stream was being diverted away from the WM-managed Chastang Landfill, in breach of the contract between WM and the authority.
Betbeze asked the court to further force the authority to deliver the city’s yard debris to Chastang Landfill, in accordance with the contract.
“WM Mobile Bay further prays that the court hold the city of Mobile Solid Waste Authority in contempt of court and award the costs of this motion as a sanction against the authority” the motion reads.
Pete Riehm, Solid Waste Authority Board chairman, said the board voted in July to send the city’s yard debris to Chastang Landfill. He added that he doesn’t know why it hasn’t happened.
Paul Wesch, the city’s acting chief of staff, said that while the city is not directly involved in the ongoing lawsuit, he could confirm that discussions about moving yard debris from Dirt Inc. to Chastang Landfill were ongoing. He added the council approved an extension of the Dirt Inc. contract last summer while the appeal was ongoing.
In January of last year, a federal jury awarded WM roughly $6 million following a breach-of-contract trial. The authority appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which, after a hearing in Montgomery in December, upheld the lower court’s decision.
In the second complaint, Betbeze asks for a permanent injunction to force the authority to reimburse WM more than $162,000 for capital expenses for the landfill’s gas management system, Mobile Area Water and Sewer System surcharges for leachate pre-treatment and leachate analytical costs.
In the complaint, Betbeze calls these costs “capital expenses,” which he argues are reimbursable, according to the contract and the court’s 2015 ruling. A denial last month by the authority to reimburse WM, Betbeze wrote, constitutes new breaches of the contract.
“WM Mobile Bay has suffered irreparable injury by the authority’s continued refusal to reimburse it for capital expenses and operational costs … despite this court’s ruling that such costs are directly reimbursable under the parties’ contract,” the motion reads. “WM Mobile Bay does not have an adequate remedy at law because the authority’s repeated breaches of contract and demonstrated contempt for the court’s rulings would require WM Mobile Bay to continually file lawsuits to recover damages for each one of the authority’s breaches of the same contractual provision.”
Riehm argues what Betbeze describes in the complaint isn’t a capital expense and that’s why the board voted against the reimbursement.
“Our position is it’s not a reimbursable item,” he said.
The authority has no real assets with which to pay the $6 million judgment against it, Riehm said, other than the landfill itself. At one point, WM did pay the authority royalties for use of the landfill, but those royalties haven’t been paid since the legal issue began, Riehm said.
It remains unclear how the authority will satisfy the judgment. Riehm said many options have been discussed, but nothing has been finalized.