A yearlong debate over whether Los Alamitos officials unfairly awarded the city's trash contract ended Friday when a county judge ordered the city to reopen the bidding process.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Andrew Banks said the city’s current trash contract “failed to comply with Los Alamitos' municipal code,” which requires such agreements to go to the lowest responsible bidder.
Citizens for a Fair Trash Contract—the group of residents who filed the suit—were elated.
“[We] are exceptionally pleased that his honor agreed that this was not a frivolous lawsuit,” said J.M. Ivler, a member of the group.
The suit had also accused city leaders of corruption in accepting thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the trash hauler, Consolidated Disposal Services, and its officers and then bypassing city procedures to award the contract to the company.
The earlier, but the rest of the suit was allowed to proceed.
The case was filed during last year’s City Council race, and critics called it a political stunt aimed at undermining the campaigns of incumbents who approved the contract.
City Councilman Troy Edgar has repeatedly defended the trash contract, calling it one of the best in Orange County, with rates under $12 per month for residents.
The contract promised $275,000 in revenue to city coffers and a onetime payment of nearly $300,000, according to city officials. It also lowered residential trash rates by 19 percent, officials said, and provided street-sweeping services at no extra cost.
Citizens for a Fair Trash Contract argued that city officials twisted the contract approval process to favor CDS even though its bid was more than $6 million higher than another qualified applicant.
On Friday, Judge Banks agreed to give the city 60 days to respond to his ruling and a “reasonable amount of time” to find the lowest responsible bidder for a new contract. In the interim, the city may continue using CDS.
Another option for the city is to change its bidding procedure, the judge said.
City Attorney Sandra Levin said the city would need 60 days to discuss the matter and hold public hearings if it decides to change its bidding process. Levin also said the city might appeal the judge's ruling.