Bidding wars for a multi-million dollar trash contract are about to begin in Chino Hills and Mayor Brian Johsz will have plenty of recusals from public discussion because he is employed with a potential bidder.
The city’s contract with trash company Republic Services is set to expire after two decades and solid waste companies are being asked to come up with proposals for trash collection, transportation, recycling, processing, and disposal.
Mr. Johsz is employed with waste collection company Athens Services as director of government affairs and has twice recused himself from discussions related to the process.
Each time, he has submitted a conflict of interest form stating that he has a financial interest in the discussion because his employer will potentially place a bid for the contract.
Mr. Johsz was hired by Athens in September 2014 and became a councilmember in September 2017.
According to the request for proposal, any contact made with city staff or councilmembers by the proposers or their representatives during the process could result in disqualification.
When asked by the Champion if he had conversations with his company regarding Athens putting in a bid for the contract and whether he would be receiving financial compensation in the form of a bonus or any type of incentive if Athens receives the contract, Mr. Johsz responded:
“I am not and have not been involved in any manner with any discussions about any Chino Hills request for proposal or contract,” he said. “I will not be involved in the preparation of any response to the request for proposal. Likewise, I do not and will not receive any bonus or other type of incentive if Athens receives a contract from Chino Hills.”
A pre-proposal conference was held via Zoom on Thursday with proposals due July 1.
A three-month evaluation process will take place and a contract award is expected to be announced at a council meeting in November.
The city hired HF&H Consultants for $160,000 in July 2020 to evaluate the city’s solid waste service needs in conjunction with the Republic Services contract and industry standards.
City officials said the consultant was necessary because of the complexities associated with the solid waste industry and regulations imposed by governmental agencies including green waste disposal rules and a new organic waste recycling mandate.
The consultant drafted the request for proposals and will be assisting with circulating and evaluating the proposals.
Trash haulers consider such contracts lucrative because they are typically multi-million, multi-year agreements with potential extensions. As such, they typically make large donations to the community and provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in incentives to cities to retain their services.
In 2001, the city council approved a 10-year contract with Republic Services that was set to expire in 2011. When the city awarded the contract, Republic Services presented a check of $400,000 during a council presentation and committed thousands of dollars in charitable donations.
In 2007, the council extended the agreement to 2016 and received a payment from Republic Services of $250,000 as well as a commitment to continue contributing $10,000 per year to local organizations.
In 2010, the city accepted Republic Services’ offer of $500,000 to extend the contract five years beyond the 2016 date, which took the contract to 2020.
In November 2020, the city extended the term of the contract to Jan. 31, 2022 with an optional five-month extension to June 30, 2022 because of the consultant’s projection that it would take one year for the bid and award process and another six months to roll out services under the new agreement.
In addition to stating that he had no conversations or discussion with Athens’ officials regarding the bid and that he would not be receiving financial compensation in the form of a bonus or incentive, Mayor Johsz provided the Champion with an advice letter from the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) dated July 27, 2020.
The letter was in response to the following question presented by assistant city attorney Elizabeth Calciano: “Under the Act and Section 1090, may Chino Hills City Councilman Brian Johsz and the city council potentially contract with a company that employs Mr. Johsz?”
According to Dave Bainbridge, general counsel for the FPPC who signed the letter, Mr. Johsz’ financial interest would be considered “remote” if he properly recuses himself.
He wrote: Mr. Johsz is prohibited from taking part in the potential contracting process, given that it would explicitly involve his employer and therefore have a reasonably foreseeable, material financial effect on his source of income and business entity interests.
Mr. Bainbridge continued: “Similarly, Mr. Johsz’ financial interest in his employer also prohibits him from taking part in the contracting process.”
His conclusion: “However, given the circumstances of his employment, including it predating his service as a councilmember and his status as an employee rather than an officer or director, his financial interest would be considered remote if he properly recuses himself and the council would be permitted to contract with his employer despite his remote interest.”
The letter further states that “we are only providing advice under the Act and Section 1090, not under other general conflict of interest prohibitions such as common law conflict of interest, including Public Contract Code.”
The letter also states that “we are not a finder of fact when rendering advice” and “we are also required to advise you that, for purposes of Section 1090, the following advice is not admissible in a criminal proceeding against any individual other than the requestor.”
Athens has been providing street sweeping services to the City of Chino Hills since 2015.