Cincinnati, OH

County staff sabotages efforts for public support as County Commissioners set date for landfill rules - on the record

The Cincinnati Post
Driehaus gives firm deadline to pass landfill rules as December 16th.As adapted from ICRC, November 17, 2021

The county commissioners formalized their intent to have rules relating to landfills passed by the December 16th commissioners' meeting despite their staff at the Department of Environmental Services sending out an email earlier in the week claiming that no such proposal was being considered in order to discredit the organization that proposed this project to create rules and to prevent local jurisdictions from supporting the measure. The email stated:

The attached communication is from Ms. Carrie Davis and includes a "proposed rule" related to the siting of landfills in Hamilton County.  Apparently, Ms. Davis is sending this communication to communities throughout Hamilton County indicating that the Rules Subcommittee of the Hamilton County Solid Waste Policy Committee is preparing to consider this specific proposed rule at its November 10th meeting.  This is inaccurate. 

In fact, the proposed rule was introduced.

The communication sent by Ms. Davis to these communities asks for their formal action to support the proposed rule and to ask the Board of County Commissioners to adopt it immediately.  The communication can arguably be read to infer that Ms. Davis is acting, in some manner, on behalf of, or in coordination with, the subcommittee.  However, even if one does not infer this from the communication, it still suggests that the rule is under formal consideration by the subcommittee.  

There is no such inference. The email is signed by the director of "Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc."

The rules proposed in the correspondence have not been vetted or even discussed by the Subcommittee.  The subcommittee does meet on 11/10 but as yet, there are no specific rules proposed by any of the members.

The language in this mass-distributed email to every city, village and township jurisdiction in the county was intended to discredit "Ms. Carrie Davis," promote her as being uninformed and insinuating that Davis was misrepresenting herself. Carrie Davis is the director of Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc. (C.A.R.E.) and is the nonprofit that proposed the adoption of rules back in May this year. The committee had no idea that they, through the county commissioners, had the authority to propose rules for adoption to the commissioners.

Staff wanted to keep it that way.

Certain staff members have engaged in a pattern of obstruction for the efforts to get rules proposed to the commissioners. Staff has claimed, both on the record in meetings and in secret communications shared with The Cincinnati Post, that Davis' proposal is baseless and not permitted by law. Through a public records request it was found that staff was engaging in the exchange of information and "opposition research" against Davis and that staff, early on, directed committee members to not have any communications with anyone from C.A.R.E. Michelle Balz, Solid Waste Manager, also sent C.A.R.E. an email that said all committee members wanted all communications with them to go through her office. The records indicate that wasn't true. Public records indicate that she worked with 1 member (who opposes rules being passed) to determine that she should censure Davis' communications.

C.A.R.E. disregarded Balz's demand.

The discussion by both the committee (reported here with links to video) and before the commissioners (here at the 10 minute mark) prove that a rule was, in fact, proposed, but staff and 1 member of the subcommittee along with legal counsel, attempted to block any discussion of the proposed rule or to even permit it from becoming part of the record. It is no coincidence that these parties made the same arguments made by the staff members in the email attempting to "deny and delay" the adoption of rules, insisting on the record, "this rule hasn't even been vetted" and fighting to prevent it from being entered on the record.

Driehaus reported to the other commissioners, " "I, too, am frustrated by the timing." If Rumpke files its permit to expand a landfill before the rules are passed, then they will not be held accountable to the Board of Commissioners' heightened standards for landfill operators. Now, the commissioners are in a race to see who acts first - them or Rumpke. Whoever gets their paperwork done first wins.

Commissioner Reece is also frustrated by the fact that their own staff is running interference against them. Assistant Prosecutor Nee Fong Chin stated at the last meeting that they still hadn't issued a legal opinion despite the request for an opinion has been waning for at least 4 months. Reece vented,

I'm reading this exactly how it's saying, that WE ...have the authority (referring to the statute). (It) gives us the power, and we've been saying we don't have the power" and "I don't want anyone to feel as though we're slowwalking something. And then, we get a rule that says we can have some power, and then we say, 'Oh! but if we just had known it 30 days ago you coulda (done) something; you missed the deadline...

Due to staff's actions, Reece's prediction was right on the money. We are now faced with this looming deadline causing the commissioners and committee to rush this effort through. The commissioners' own staff are the ones working to discredit and obstruct the process and, now, other public officials' from being informed of the efforts and show support for proposed rules.

However, Driehaus came out strongly at the commissioners' meeting in favor of getting these rules passed and in effect prior to Rumpke using the sabotage effort to slip in their permit request before the commissioners' act. Driehaus informed the board that they will need to act within a few weeks.

[I] was very clear that the last day for us to act is ... December 16th"

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