Cincinnati, OH

Rumpke asked to resign from landfill oversight policy committee

The Cincinnati Post

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Meeting of the Solid Waste Policy CommitteeCarrie Davis, reporter, The Cincinnati Post

Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc. (C.A.R.E.) has sent an email to Larry Riddle, representative of Rumpke, requesting that he voluntarily resign from the Solid Waste Policy Committee. As yet, there has been no response.

C.A.R.E. requested that Rumpke remove itself from the oversight committee because there exists a plain and obvious conflict of interest, inappropriate influence, is contrary to a legal opinion issued by the Ohio Attorney General, and sitting on the committee violates Ohio law. ORC 3734.54(B) requires that the county commissioners appoint a committee consisting of 7 members being 1 representative from each of the following categories: county commissioners, the largest city, health department, the townships, a county appointed public member without conflicts, a public member appointed by the 4 government officials, and 1 generator of garbage in the county.

Rumpke was added as a non-voting member in February of 2000, 1 month after the last time rulemaking for landfills was discussed and shut down. Rumpke has remained on the board ever since and enjoys all the benefits and privileges of being a full committee member other than voting rights.

C.A.R.E. informed the Director of Environmental Services and the Ohio EPA months ago that having Rumpke on the committee appears to violate the law months ago. C.A.R.E. requested, in lieu of Rumpke’s removal that the OEPA or Environmental Services, Solid Waste Division, produce documentation that exempts the county from following the unambiguous statute defining who is permitted to be on the committee, even if in the limited capacity of an “ex officio” with no voting rights.

To date, neither oversight agency has provided any evidence or documentation that permits the division to have 8 members, instead of the 7 specified in law. Nor, has either entity asked Rumpke to resign.

Rumpke’s presence on the committee is challenged due to improper influence that was evident at the most recent solid waste committee meeting. The entire committee, including a representative from a “generator” of solid waste who has been employed as a landfill operator, himself, voted unanimously to create a subcommittee to recommend rules applying to landfill operators in the county. That means Rumpke.

An example of improper influence was evident at the most recent meeting. Public citizens are only permitted to speak to the committee for 3 minutes. However, since Rumpke is a committee member he is unencumbered by any time constraints. When they discussed the issue of rulemaking for landfill operators, Rumpke was permitted to speak in opposition to the motion presented by another committee member. Additionally, since Rumpke is a member, they are privy to executive sessions, they are privy to legal opinions and seeking free legal advice, they are privy to confidential agency documents, and they enjoy the company of fellow members.

Even if Rumpke were permitted on the committee, because a rulemaking subcommittee would uniquely apply to Rumpke directly, they are forbidden to opine on the issue at all.

Additionally, Rumpke proposed who should sit on the rules subcommittee. Of course, that would be the person who currently works in the garbage business now. While, C.A.R.E., the organization that has spent 5 months educating the panel on their rights and responsibilities as committee members, particularly, in regards to rulemaking authority, was not permitted to participate in the discussion pertaining to who should be on the subcommittee.

However, C.A.R.E. spoke up without being acknowledged by the chair, Commissioner Denise Driehaus, from the audience and nominated Rumpke to the subcommittee as a full voting member, because there is no statutory prohibition to them sitting on a subcommittee and, as C.A.R.E. explained before being cut-off by Driehaus, the subcommittee needs a landfill operator on this committee due the desire to have a full, equitable discussion of the impact on the industry for each rule recommended and because of Rumpke’s unique expertise in the field.

C.A.R.E. also believes that Rumpke is a Good Corporate Citizen, however, they want Rumpke to be a Good Neighbor, as well, by helping to propose fair rules that serve the district’s public duty to protect the health, communities, and environment while continuing to provide the level of service to residents that have earned them the respect of the region.

Because C.A.R.E. introduced this measure and their representative has 20 years experience “conducting legal research on governmental entities’ compliance with state and federal law and policy and procedure,” C.A.R.E. believes they would be integral in the rules subcommittee work. Based on the poor reception and obstructive behavior of some committee members and managers in this division, and the Board of Commissioners, C.A.R.E. doesn’t believe the organization will be appointed to the subcommittee.

Otherwise, the subcommittee can not have more than 3 members from the committee because it would represent a quorum of that panel and be in violation of the Open Meetings Act of Ohio. The 3 people requesting to be on the subcommittee are: the city representative, the public member, and the at large public member. The health director has requested that his office be represented, as well. Rumpke should be on the committee. That leaves 2 seats still to be decided.

The Director of Environmental Services that oversees County R3Source (formerly the County Recycling and Solid Waste department), states that they expect the subcommittee to be promptly assembled, active, and proposing rules to the larger committee by their next meeting in November. After the Solid Waste Policy Committee approves the proposed rules, or makes additions or alterations, the Board of County Commissioners will then have the opportunity to approve them by resolution. If the commissioners refuse to adhere to the policy committee recommendations, the committee can then incorporate them into the district plan and create rules during an amended or update to the district plan.

But, first Rumpke needs to decide if they will voluntarily resign or face possible removal by court order.

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