Charged With Exceeding its Mandate, Excessive Fees, and
Duplicating other Agencies’ Programs -
In a 2011-12 investigative report, an Alameda County Civil Grand Jury charges that, for the sole purpose of “self-perpetuation,” StopWaste.Org has copied dozens of programs and
objectives of other state and county agencies. The complicated “Bay Friendly Landscaping ordinance” promoted by StopWaste.Org recently in Piedmont would appear to be an example, overlapping with regulations promulgated by CA-WELO, Cal Green, and EBMUD.
- Overlap with other agencies identified by Piedmont Planning staff: Chart 1 Chart 2
- PCA article on landscaping ordinance
Several Alameda County cities adopted some version or passed a resolution in favor of the goals, while others, including Piedmont, have declined to adopt the confusing ordinance.
This is the second time in two years StopWaste.Org has been investigated by an Alameda County Grand Jury. Both the new 2011-12 Grand Jury and a 2010-11 Grand Jury identified numerous shortcomings in the joint powers agency. Both concluded that, rather than disbanding or restructuring – as recommended last year – StopWaste.Org continues to expand into areas not within
its province. Compared with San Mateo County’s recycling program staff of eight, StopWaste.Org has 39 full time equivalent staff positions.
Both the Piedmont Post (August 1) and the Oakland Tribune have reported on the more recent 2011-12 Alameda County Civil Grand Jury report looking at StopWaste.Org
. StopWaste.Org has posted a letter on its website from its Executive Director, providing supplemental information on its use of grants and budget growth.
The 2011-12 Grand Jury finds that, as StopWaste.Org comes close to reaching its waste management goals, it “seems to keep redefining its purpose and expanding its scope“ and “instead of paring back and reducing fees, it has created new programs. …In fact it would seem that it is determined to stay in business.” The Grand Jury charges these new programs duplicate programs run by other agencies and are unrelated to the StopWaste original mandate to manage solid waste recycling. The Grand Jury suggests governing board members cannot justify continuing to spend public dollars on these unrelated activities outside the agency’s original purpose.
The initial 2010 Grand Jury identifies the same problems, plus criticizes the fact that “StopWaste granted pay increases at a time when most other public agencies are cutting back and even furloughing staff” and questions its frequent use of consultants. The large StopWaste staff is 5 times larger than the staff utilized by a similar agency charged with the same mandate, according to the Grand Jury.
Annual revenue of $19.5 million has allowed the expansion of the organization. This revenue is derived from tonnage fees and surcharges levied by StopWaste.Org which have nearly doubled in the past several years, according to the 2010 Grand Jury. Soaring fees and surcharges have contributed not only to increased garbage disposal rates, but significant illegal dumping in many neighborhoods.
Rather than addressing the deficiencies identified, both Grand Juries indicate that StopWaste.Org denies any problems exist and intends to continue to expand.
Councilmember Garrett Keating is Piedmont’s representative and Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka is the alternate representative to the Stopwaste.org board.
2011-12 Grand Jury notes Stopwaste.org response to previous findings:
“StopWaste disagreed with many of the Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations regarding continued growth of a program . . . . Instead, StopWaste appears to be further expanding the scope of its operations . . . . A future grand jury should consider further investigation.” (2011-12 report at p. 122-123.)
“It appears that StopWaste has no intention of downsizing, even though ACWMA is steadily approaching its mandated goal of a 75% diversion from landfill.” (2010-11 report at p. 135.)
“In fact it would seem that it is determined to stay in business, as noted in this [StopWaste] statement . . . ‘Although there are some who would like the Agency to shrink as our tonnage-based revenue declines, and others who want to steadily raise fees on landfill materials, the majority opinion was that the organization needs to diversify its revenue sources and continue to deliver innovative services related to the entire materials management cycle, not just discard management.’ ” (2010 report at p. 135.)
Quotes from the 2011-12 Grand Jury investigation
“StopWaste.Org is an example of a self-perpetuating JPA whose board is not holding it accountable to its voter-approved mandate. After reviewing the investigation by the 2010-2011 Grand Jury, StopWaste.Org’s response, and information posted on the StopWaste.org website, the current Grand Jury is concerned that this JPA seems to keep redefining its purpose and expanding its scope as its original purpose is fulfilled.
This JPA was created for the management of the Alameda County Solid Waste Management Plan and, subsequently, to engage in hazardous waste planning and ensure compliance with AB939’s waste diversion mandates. However, as StopWaste.Org comes closer and closer to meeting its intended waste management goals, instead of paring back and reducing fees, it has created new programs to promote green buildings and energy efficiency. Citing information that debris from construction and demolition projects comprises over 20% of materials disposed in Alameda County landfills, StopWaste.Org has started programs to provide training, resources, model green building ordinances, design assistance, and related topics in conjunction with many other organizations already designing and promoting green buildings.
According to StopWaste.Org’s website, it launched the Energy Efficiency and Green Retrofit Program in 2010 to encourage energy efficiency and green improvements for existing buildings. . . Furthermore, StopWaste.Org’s 2011-2012 budget includes $1.8 million for “Energy Upgrade CA,” a program for home energy upgrades such as new attic insulation, solar panels, etc. The Grand Jury wonders how the board members responsible for ensuring that StopWaste.Org fulfills its intended purpose can justify continuing to spend public dollars (collected through waste disposal surcharges) for such diverse activities, which have so little direct relationship to solid waste management.”
Recommendation: Having streamlined its committee structure to reduce the number and expense of board meetings, StopWaste anticipates completing its strategic work plan governance review in June 2012. StopWaste disagreed with many of the Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations regarding continued growth of a program which is nearing completion of the goals for which it was created. Instead, StopWaste appears to be further expanding the scope of its operations, as noted in this year’s report on Special Districts and JPAs. A future grand jury should consider further investigation.
(At p. 115-116. Emphasis added.)
Quotes from 2010-11 Grand Jury Investigation
“Solid Waste disposal fees in the past several years have increased as much as 50-60% and nearly doubled in some parts of the county.’ (p. 127)
“The joint powers authority known as StopWaste.Org was created to engage in solid waste and hazardous waste management planing and implement AB939, which mandates a reduction in solid waste going to landfills. AB939 set a goal of 75% solid waste diversion from landfills and has nearly reached that goal throughout the county.” (Editors’ Note: the City of Piedmont has attained the 75% goal.)
“The StopWaste budget supports 39 FTE positions at an annual cost of $4 million; in comparison San Mateo County Recycle Works performed all of their state recycling mandates with a staff of eight employees.”
‘The StopWaste runs 40 different programs.”
“StopWaste maintains and compensates two separate governing boards with overlapping functions.”
‘The Executive Director receives $213,840 in base salary, not including benefits.”
‘The large majority of its $19.5 million in revenues are from tonnage related fees and surcharges levied by StopWaste to meet the requirements of AB 939 and Measure D.”
“A portion of StopWaste.Org revenues – $5 million – is distributed to the 17 local jurisdictions of the JPA for use in their recycling programs and solid waste diversion projects, as required by Measure D.”
(At p. 227 et seq. of 2010-11 report)
- 2011-12 Alameda County Grand Jury report ummary
- 2010-11 Grand Jury report
- response to the 2011-12 report posted on StopWaste.Org website.
- StopWaste budget
- CHARTS on Landscape Ordinance overlap with other agencies prepared by Piedmont Planning staff: Chart 1 Chart 2
- PCA article on landscaping ordinanceChart 1: http://www.piedmontcivic.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Screen-Shot-2012-06-18-at-7.13.34-AM.png;Chart 2: http://www.piedmontcivic.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Screen-Shot-2012-06-18-at-7.13.04-AM.png
Prior PCA Article (LINK) <http://www.piedmontcivic.org/?s=landscape>