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Chula Vista resident urges city to dump settlement agreement with Republic Services

A June 22 letter from attorney John Moot says the city violated open meeting laws and failed to notify the public about settlement over this year's trash strike.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — A Chula Vista resident wants the city to back out of the settlement it entered into with trash hauler Republic Services over the month-long trash worker strike that put the brakes on trash collection citywide.

Chula Vista resident Russ Hall says the city council and the mayor violated California's open meeting laws when they agreed behind closed doors to the settlement. Hall says the city again violated the same laws when the council announced the settlement agreement at a June 14 council hearing.

In a June 22 letter, Hall's attorney John Moot, who is also running to become Chula Vista's next City Attorney, says the city needs to rescind the agreement and include the public before entering into any agreement. 

Reads the letter, "It is requested that the City cure and correct this violation by putting on the council agenda an action item to report out the settlement including a copy of the settlement agreement and the closed session vote on the approval of the settlement."

The Trash Strike

On December 17, more than 250 sanitation workers walked off the job and into the picket line. Workers demanded better pay and safer work conditions.

RELATED: Sanitation workers on strike throughout San Diego area

WATCH RELATED: Sanitation workers on strike throughout San Diego

The strike lasted 30-days and grounded trash collection. More than 50,000 households were left without trash service, and thousands of businesses and apartments in San Diego and Chula Vista had to find a place to dump trash or store them on their properties.

Residents were left having to haul their refuge to the landfill while businesses hired haulers or rented dumpsters to get rid of their trash.

In January of this year, workers and Republic entered into a new contract, ending the strike and resuming full service trash collection.

RELATED: San Diego communities gear up for massive clean-up as trash strike officially ends

WATCH RELATED: San Diego communities gear up for massive clean-up after strike ends

The Settlement

Earlier this year, Chula Vista city council and the mayor met with the City Attorney's Office in closed session meetings to discuss filing a lawsuit against Republic Services to compel the company to reimburse the city for expenses it occurred due to the work stoppage.

Then, on June 14, during a hearing to approve new rates for organic waste collection, Chula Vista City Manager Maria Kachadoorian announced the city had agreed to settle the dispute.

In the agreement, Republic Services agreed to reimburse the city approximately $107,000 for costs it incurred. The trash collector had previously agreed to refund residents 30 percent of their monthly bill to make up for the halt in trash hauling. 

Not all councilmembers supported the agreement. 

In a written statement following the settlement announcement, city councilmember Jill Galvez said she believed that "there should have been 100 percent bill credits for all customers during council deliberations in February, rather than rubber-stamping Republic’s initial offer."

The June 22 Letter

The June 14 settlement announcement came as a surprise to residents such as Russ Hall. In the June 22 letter, Hall's attorney John Moot, said residents were caught off guard because the city had failed to notify the public that settlement discussions were underway and subsequently neglected to inform residents that a settlement was in place.

"A settlement with Republic arising out of the trash strike was not noticed on the regular Agenda nor under the Closed Session Agenda," reads Moot's June 22 letter. "A copy of the settlement agreement was not included in the Council Agenda packet. The Brown Act prohibits any action or discussion of items not on the posted agenda with narrow exceptions, none of which would apply here."

Moot is demanding that the city agree to hold a public hearing about the settlement. In doing so, Moot, on behalf of his client, wants the city to release the closed-session vote when the settlement was approved.

Chula Vista City Council and staff will meet in closed session on July 12 to discuss Moot's letter and whether or not to toss out the settlement agreement.

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