BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (WAFB) – As complaints continue to flow against Republic Services for failed garbage pickups, 9News investigators have learned the company has poured thousands of dollars into local political campaigns for years .
Some customers now have questions about the company’s dealings with local politicians as their complaints continue to mount.
Louie Brown said something stinks and it’s not just the garbage piled up in front of his house and on the street.
“The garbage collection has been very sporadic,” said Brown. “Sometimes a week goes by without garbage collection and we worry. “
Brown said he and his neighbors along Gloria Drive in Baton Rouge were fed up with Republic services for missing routes. This is not a new problem and he thinks it is getting worse.
“When you call you get a very gentle response. It’s nothing positive like it’s going to be improved or we’ll see what the problem is. A quick fix is usually all we get, ”Brown added.
Kelvin Hill, deputy general manager of East Baton Rouge, is closely monitoring the contract between the parish city and Republic Services. He said the company has faced a number of challenges related to the latest wave of COVID.
“Republic has likely seen nearly 15-20% of its drivers go out at some point due to COVID-19,” Hill said.
Hill added that much of the recent delays can be attributed to the Delta variant of COVID-19. On top of that, he said the amount of trash they see on the streets is increasing. To manage it, Hill said Republic Services has done several things, such as increasing the number of drivers, reworking some routes to make them more efficient, and bringing in additional trucks to help. Even with these additional measures, complaints continue to flow.
In July, data from 311 calls showed 982 people called to complain about garbage collection and in June, 1,038 calls poured in. Hill was asked if Republic Services suffered any financial consequences as a result of the complaints.
“There is really no financial consequence in our contract with them and there are no penalties, per se, for performance,” HIll explained.
The leaders of East Baton Rouge want to be clear. They say Republic Services didn’t face any penalties because that’s not how their contract works. The city may collect what is called damages from the company, but it’s a process and executives told WAFB the problems haven’t reached that level.
“Damages can only occur if there is significant and substantial irrecoverable damage to the parish city. We haven’t really had a situation where we’ve had a breach of contract so to speak, ”Hill noted.
Republic Services has one of the biggest contracts with the city-parish. In 2023, EBR Metropolitan Council members will have to decide whether or not to extend the deal. After so many people complained, 9News investigators followed the money. According to campaign finance records, Republic Services made more than $ 17,000 in campaign contributions to the 2020 election. The money was split between Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, mayoral candidate Matt Watson, and every current EBR board member except Councilor Chauna Banks and Pro Mayor Tem Lamont Cole.
Since the 2016 election, the same records reveal that Republic Services has donated more than $ 39,000 to local politicians.
Here’s a breakdown of Republic Services campaign contributions to East Baton Rouge politicians since 2016.
“It’s bordering on being a little shady and our officials shouldn’t be able to be bought off,” Brown said.
Customers aren’t the only ones wondering about this. Local attorney Glen Petersen said these questions were natural given the circumstances.
“If there are political contributions, questions automatically arise as to whether this influences the actions of number one, the company itself and number two, the actions of the parish city or inaction depending on the case, ”said Petersen.
Petersen said it raises a red flag when a company that has a contract with the city also injects money into local campaigns.
“It certainly brings the issue of transparency to the surface,” Petersen added.
Darryl Gissel, executive director of East Baton Rouge, said these contributions to the Republic Services campaign didn’t matter. In fact, he said it’s common for companies to throw money behind certain candidates.
“There is no preferential treatment for an entrepreneur within the city-parish government,” Gissel said. “It’s not something the mayor would agree to. I think if you look at the list of contributions from each political candidate, you have businessmen everywhere contributing. “
Gissel highlighted campaign finance laws, which he said are very clear on how contributions should be reported and documented. He added that there are very strict regulations on how money flows from companies to a given candidate.
If the campaign money donated by Republic Services doesn’t matter, 9News investigators asked the company why the donations are happening.
A spokesperson for Republic Services released the following statement in response to this investigation:
Because some of these Republic Services candidates donated money to vote on whether to renew their contract when the time came, WAFB wanted to know if this money could influence their decision. Parish city leaders said the answer was no. They said the parish follows the law on state offers when introducing a contract and that local politicians cannot really influence this decision just because they got money from a certain company.
“When that contract comes to the board, they just endorse the lowest bid with a yes or no, so they really don’t pick the contractor per se. The contractor is really selected through the tendering process, ”Hill said.
“I think people can still be skeptical about these things but, as Kelvin said, the nominating act slows down municipal government in a lot of cases and these things are there to make sure that sort of thing. things can’t happen, ”Gissel added.
At the end of the day, most people just want to know that their garbage is picked up on time, every time. Parish city leaders have said that while there is always room for improvement, they are doing all they can to deliver.
“Do we want their performance to be better? Of course we do. Are they doing all they can? Of course they are. Is this sufficient for some people? No it is not. We understand this and we will continue to work hard to ensure that the basic services people expect are provided, ”said Hill
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