The battle to release records kept secret by the City of Houston begins in court tomorrow.
EcoHub and its founder George Gitschel will ask State District Judge Kristen Hawkins to order the City of Houston to produce e-mails sent or received by Houston garbage boss Harry Hayes.
Stewart Hoffer, Attorney for EcoHub, wants to view the e-mails under a protective order as allowed under the Texas Public Information Act. Hoffer will not be allowed to share the contents of the e-mails with the public, or even his clients.
Joining the legal battle as a plaintiff is Wayne Dolcefino, President of the Investigative Communications firm Dolcefino Consulting. His company requested the records on behalf of EcoHub.
“The City of Houston has fought for nearly a year to keep e-mails about garbage and recycling contracts secret,” says Dolcefino. “If these garbage deals were good for the City of Houston, what is the Mayor afraid we will see?”
Turner’s decision not to continue the nearly complete deal with EcoHub prompted allegations of bid rigging and favoritism for the company eventually chosen.
“It is time for the City of Houston to honor the public right to know,” says Hoffer. “If the City of Houston has nothing to hide, then they shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer money fighting to keep e-mails secret. Fiscal responsibility will be paramount in the weeks ahead. The law allows our firm to inspect every e-mail that is responsive to EcoHub’s numerous prior requests, and we hope that Judge Hawkins will see things our way.”
The court hearing will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 at 2:00 pm in the courtroom of the 55th District Court, on the ninth floor of the Civil Court house at 201 Caroline Street, Houston, Texas.
The innovative recycling firm Ecohub will ask State District Judge Kristen Hawkins next week to order the City of Houston to produce e-mails sent or received by Houston garbage boss Harry Hayes.
Hicks Thomas’ attorney, Stewart Hoffer wants to view the e-mails under a protective order as allowed under the Texas Public Information Act. State law allows this type of inspection. Hoffer will not be allowed to share the contents of the e-mails with the public, or even his clients.
“It is time for the City of Houston to honor the public right to know”, says Hoffer.” If the City of Houston has nothing to hide, then they shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer money-fighting to keep e-mails secret, especially after Hurricane Harvey, where fiscal responsibility will be paramount in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, the law allows our firm to inspect every e-mail that is responsive to Echohub’s numerous prior requests, and we hope that Judge Hawkins will see things our way.”
The City of Houston has fought for more than 10 months to keep e-mails about garbage and recycling contracts secret. Ecohub was chosen to turn Houston garbage into new products, but Mayor Turner never told the company he was going to start over and choose an entirely different company. The move prompted allegations of bid rigging and favoritism for the company eventually chosen.
The records were requested by Dolcefino Consulting, the Houston based Investigative Communications Firm run by Investigative Reporter Wayne Dolcefino.
“The Mayor has the power to release all these records today. In fact, there is evidence the City of Houston has provided false information to the Texas Attorney General about these records,” says Dolcefino. “The Mayor’s lack of transparency on the use of tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money is unacceptable.”
The court hearing will be held Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 2:00pm in the courtroom of the 55th District Court, on the ninth floor of the Civil Court house at 201 Caroline Street, Houston, TX.
The Mayor’s plan for a 9% tax hike to pay for debris cleanup will hurt storm victims’ hard.
That’s why ECOHUB founder George Gitschel has a deal for the Mayor, a way to recycle storm debris instead of just keeping it in a landfill for life.
“I am a Houstonian, and my friends and neighbors were hurt too. This is a heartache, but there may be a way to turn a tragedy into a positive. I hope the Mayor will work with us to avoid a tax increase,” says George Gitschel, founder of ECOHUB.
Gitschel looks at these piles of storm debris as a scientist, and sees money in the debris, not just destroyed memories.
“Everything in the debris, from family photos, soggy carpet to sheetrock can be recycled, a lot of it into fuel,” says Gitschel. “We are willing to sit down with the City today to come up with a plan to expedite private financing of a plant so that we can recycle debris from this and future storms, and then share the profits with taxpayers”.
ECOHUB has offered to save the City up to 40 million dollars a year in exchange for city garbage, and wants a bunch of that money to help fix fire equipment and give firefighters a deserved pay raise.
In the wake of the hurricane, Facebook Viewers on Dolcefino Consulting wanted to know if ECOHUB has a way to avoid a tax increase. Gitschel says yes.
“The tax increase the Mayor proposes doesn’t raise any money until sometime next year, and we are willing to start building our plant immediately. Houstonians know this flood will not be our last, so let’s begin a way to revolutionize the way we treat storm debris at the same time. That is the way Houston should think.”
Gitschel is available for interviews on the subject. Media should contact Dolcefino Consulting.
New e-mails obtained by Dolcefino Consulting prove Mayor Sylvester Turner tried to keep the company EcoHub from being able to compete for a new Houston recycling contract. That move may now be keeping Houstonians from saving tens of millions of dollars.
The company filed a protest when Turner issued a new bid for recycling last year, but the Mayor has insisted they were welcome to compete for the lucrative contract instead. Now we know Turner fought to write the bid to intentionally keep them out.
The City of Houston is fighting release of e-mails written in 2016 on recycling, but a handful of documents released late last week expose the real truth.
In April 2016, City of Houston Procurement Officers were trying to make sure the new recycling bid included language that would allow One Bin type companies to complete. The City of Houston was in the final negotiations with ECOHUB when Turner took office, but instead of finishing the recommended deal that could save taxpayers millions, Turner sought a new bidding.
Amidst attempts to add the language, Solid Waste Director Harry Hayes told bid writers that he had elevated the issue to the Mayor and that Turner had declared “One Bin” dead.
“These e-mails are smoking guns, so imagine what are in the documents the City of Houston is fighting so hard to keep secret,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “The Mayor owes taxpayers the full truth. We shouldn’t have to go to court to get him to be honest about this deal, especially when we have a City in deep financial trouble.”
The scandal over ECOHUB has become especially important because the company has offered to share profits with Houston taxpayers, and promised savings of up to 40 million dollars a year.
“That is enough money to give Houston firefighters the huge raise they deserve,” says Dolcefino. “Houston City Council decides contracts. They should order a bid rigging investigation and if wrongdoing is found, they should move forward to finish the contract negotiations with ECOHUB.”
The documents are available below. Wayne is available for comments to the media concerning this Houston recycling story.Hanahan Emails re Ecohub
Mayor Sylvester Turner may actually be the one we can blame for a $500 million-dollar state of the art environmental facility NOT coming to Houston!
And this is the “green” mayor?
Last fall, Houston was in the final running for a huge 70-million-dollar federal energy grant for a state of art environmental facility at the old Champion Paper property. The CERI (Circular Economy Remanufacturing Institute) facility was to be centered around a planned recycling operation to be run by ECO-HUB, the Houston company which had been negotiating a contract with Houston City Hall. It is the same company that has now filed corruption complaints with the Houston City Controller, accusing the Mayor of making sure they couldn’t get the cities business.
Last September, Mayor Sylvester Turner signed a letter of support for CERI, and wrote Houston was finalizing their agreement with ECO-HUB. A few weeks later Turner instead announced a new recycling bidding process. ECO-HUB eventually protested to Houston City Hall and now has taken its complaints about the Mayor public.
When confronted by reporters last week, Mayor Turner claimed the letter from last year doesn’t say it endorses ECO-HUB or its recycling idea, and that, in fact, he never supported the ECO-HUB project. Turner says the letter was meant instead to just help the professor at his alma mater the University of Houston.
Apparently, the folks at CERI thought it was a very clear promise negotiations on the ECO-HUB contract were almost complete. Hard to blame him if you read the letter.
Now, another letter prepared by that very same professor shows Turner was warned that $650 million dollars in bonds for the CERI project would be jeopardized if the City did not sign the contract with ECO-HUB by last Thanksgiving and that it would be nearly impossible to win the DOE grant without the centerpiece of the project being finalized.
The City of Houston lost out on the DOE grant.
The ECO-HUB project was touted as a way to save Houston taxpayers 25 to 40 million dollars a year by mixing all trash and recyclables in just one bin, cutting the number of needed garbage trucks by two thirds, and ending the need for landfills. The waste would instead be separated and then resold into new products.
That was the idea.
ECO-HUB had been unanimously chosen by a nine-member evaluation committee during the Parker administration after the city won a one-million-dollar grant to pursue the idea. Ending the need for dumps seems like a green friendly idea, but Mayor Turner dumped ECO-HUB instead.
Last week the Mayor picked a European company to recycle Houston’s trash the old-fashioned way starting next year. The contract won’t save money, it will cost millions. Up until last Spring, Houstonians weren’t charged a penny for recycling.
Now we are beginning to see how much that recycling decision really is costing Houston’s economy, and how much explaining the Mayor should be doing.
We asked Mayor Turner to respond to the letter the professor told CERI partners he had sent him. City Hall ignored our request for answers, just like they did the bid protest filed by ECOHUB last December.