The legal battle between the city’s Solid Waste Disposal Authority (SWDA) and Waste Management (WM) has expanded to two courts amid a fight over a 100-acre tract of land west of the Chastang landfill.
These are just the latest filings in a years-long row that has continued since a jury awarded WM a victory in a 2015 breach of contract lawsuit in United States District Court in Mobile.
In federal court filings, WM has asked for a ruling to allow U.S. Marshals to seize the property from SWDA because the authority has yet to pay the complete sum owed WM through the 2015 lawsuit.
The Sept. 18 application for a writ of execution states WM has recovered $725,405.27 of the judgment through no longer paying royalties to SWDA for use of the landfill. However, SWDA still owes $5.3 million, according to the filing.
“As a result, Waste Management Mobile Bay prays this court to enter a writ of execution for the sale of the real property owned by the authority …,” the filing states.
If the court orders the seizure of the property, it could be auctioned and the money of the sale would go to the company, WM attorney Jaime Betbeze said. The property would not fetch $5.3 million at auction, but Betbeze said it would help offset the debt remaining as part of the judgment. The rest, he said, would come from the withholding of royalties.
SWDA Chairman Pete Riehm said while there was never an agreement to let WM keep royalty payments as a way of paying down the award, it was understood. He added WM has never requested the authority pay the rest of the judgment.
“There’s nothing where they’ve come to us and said ‘you need to pay up,’” Riehm said. “They’re getting paid through withholding royalty payments.”
Instead, Riehm believes WM and its legal team is using the newest filing as an excuse to allow the company to continue to use the property in question.
In state court filings from late August, SWDA accused WM of trespassing on the property and sourcing dirt from it to cover the adjacent landfill. Riehm said the authority was unaware WM was using the property. In most cases, he said, waste disposal companies will use dirt from the landfill property to cover other portions of the landfill, or pay for dirt to do so.
Betbeze said the authority acquired the property in question in 1994 for the purpose of supporting landfill operations. He called the authority allegations of trespassing “not accurate.”
“We’ll have to address that at the proper time,” he said.
The state complaint asks the court to award compensatory and punitive damages to SWDA.
“The defendants and their employees, agents, contractors and affiliates have trespassed upon the west tract,” the complaint states. “Defendant’s trespasses are and have been intentional, willful, wanton and accompanied by malice, insult and contumely conduct and with complete reckless disregard for the rights of the plaintiff.”
Jaime Betbeze, an attorney for Waste Management, did not return a call for comment on this story.
WRIT OF EXECUTION
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