By Jill Galvez
If property owners in the City of Chula Vista have a problem with their trash collection, they can call Steve Miesen. Steve Miesen has the authority to resolve their situations. But which Steve Miesen would they be calling? Would they be calling Steve Miesen, the recently appointed (not elected) Chula Vista City Council person or Steve Miesen, the head of Republic Waste Services, who renewed his company’s sole source contract and raised the rates for trash collection for the city of Chula Vista on September 9, 2014?
The confusion is caused by the two conflicting offices for which Miesen is currently being paid. He is being paid as a Chula Vista City Council member, approximately $50K per year plus benefits. Miesen is also being paid as an officer of the sole-source privatized subcontractor of the City, Republic Services, well over $100K per year plus benefits. Miesen is also a shareholder of Republic Waste. He profits when Republic Waste profits. Those profits are significantly impacted by material decisions of the Chula Vista City Council.
The Chula Vista City Council has the responsibility of negotiating and overseeing the municipal trash services contract, which affects every property owner in the city.
During the public deliberation over the appointment of Miesen to the city council seat vacated when Mary Salas became mayor, City Attorney Glen Googins and Councilmember Pat Aguilar both stated that they wrestled with the notion of government code 1090 conflicts of interest with Miesen. But because the Republic Waste contract with the city had already been negotiated with Miesen and his attorneys in September 2014, they did not think that Miesen had any foreseeable conflicts with the city. Googins and Aguilar stated that they believed Miesen wouldn’t have any conflicts during the 2 year appointment as far as the negotiation of a new contract was concerned.
Therein lies the problem. Although the contract signing appears to be a one-time occurrence (every five years or so), trash collection occurs on a daily basis in Chula Vista. Oversight of that contract is the responsibility of the Chula Vista City Council.
Property owners can choose to go off the grid for telephone, cable, electricity, and even water service. They can refuse to pay their bills to those franchisees, and the city of Chula Vista won’t blink an eye. But if a property owner neglects to pay his mandatory bill for trash collection, Republic Waste will bring the matter to the attention of the city’s finance department. Every 30 or 60 days or so, the Chula Vista City Council will vote on whether to place a lien on the property via the property’s tax bill, generated from the tax collector’s office (a public agency). All property owners within the boundaries of the City of Chula Vista must contract Republic Waste and ONLY Republic Waste for trash collection. They cannot simply haul their own or contract another agency.
Common Law Doctrine and various government codes in the State of California (1090, 1099, 1125, 1126, 8920, and 8926) have a lot to say about foxes guarding hen houses. The term commonly used is “Incompatible Office.” According to USLegal.com, “Incompatible offices are public offices which cannot be held by one person at the same time.
“In legal contemplation, incompatibility between two offices is an inconsistency between the functions of the two. The offices must subordinate, one to the other, and they must, per se, have the right to interfere with the other before they are incompatible. [Haymaker v. State, 22 N.M. 400 (N.M. 1917)].”
Incompatible office statutes clearly apply in the Miesen City Council appointment.
Does the Miesen appointment smell bad to you? It sure does to us.
For whom will Miesen be advocating, when a property owner calls him with concerns about his trash collection? Will he advocate for the citizens of Chula Vista or the company for which he serves as an officer?
We hope that the Attorney General weighs in on this soon.