Lawsuit seeks to reverse Cotati garbage contract

A citizens group has filed a lawsuit seeking to force the Cotati City Council to reverse its May decision to award the city's garbage contract to Redwood Empire Disposal.

The group is seeking a court order to force Cotati's City Clerk, Tami Taylor, to accept a referendum that would require the city to reopen the contract to bidding or put it before voters in a special election. A hearing on the lawsuit was set Tuesday for Dec. 11 in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Taylor had rejected the petition in May, saying the garbage contract wasn't attached to the petition.

"People were signing something without having the information that's legally required in order to circulate petitions," City Manager Dianne Thompson said on Tuesday.

The group, called Cotati Citizens for Open Market Competition, collected the signatures of 537 registered voters in Cotati, enough to place the issue on the ballot, according to the county registrar of voters.

Its lawsuit was spurred by the council's awarding of a new 10-year franchise agreement to its existing hauler, Redwood Empire Disposal, without calling for contract bids. That shut Industrial Carting of Santa Rosa out of the process, although it asked several times to submit a bid.

"The bottom line is, we offered to put up a bid. They could have taken it or not taken it, and they didn't even go that far," said Curtis Michelini, Sr., owner of Industrial Carting. "The city, I felt, did not do the citizens justice."

Thompson said Industrial Carting does not provide the full range of services that Cotati needed, and also that Redwood Empire Disposal had served the city well for 10 years.

"There were no other full-service providers. So there was no compelling reason to go out to bid," she said.

Michelini said his firm had decades of experience.

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