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
More than 60,000 people have already viewed the offer from Dolcefino Consulting on Facebook.
We offered to help the Houston City Secretary count the petitions so there would be a November vote for our Houston firefighters (HFD).
And folks are stepping up to help.
Pasadena businessman Jack Rodriguez even offered to arrange a bus load of senior citizens to come to Dolcefino Consulting headquarters on Kirby Drive to help get it done.
“We have been contacted by the fathers of young firefighters, even the children of firefighters thanking us for our offer, says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “We have also received lots of complaints about Mayor Sylvester Turner, who clearly could get the petitions done if he really wanted to. Houstonians are watching.”
By the way, no one from the City of Houston has called us, even though I know the Mayor knows how to find us.
Dolcefino Consulting has offered to help count the petitions for the vote absolutely free as a public service.
“Time is running out. It is amazing to me that Mayor Turner is not accepting free help to give the citizens of Houston the right to vote on pay parity for folks who would risk their lives to save his family,” says Dolcefino. “Let’s put petty politics aside, and join together to make this happen.”
Our video offering the help has reached 160,000 people so far. You can view it on our Houston firefighters pay page. Like it and share it.
Let’s put pressure on the City.
The Houston firefighters who risk their lives to protect us simply want a chance for voters to decide in November if they deserve to be paid the same as police. The City Secretary’s office says it may not have enough folks to count the petitions to get it on the ballot. We are running out of time to make this happen.
We can’t hose the firefighters.
Dolcefino Consulting wants to make sure Houstonians get their chance to vote, so to City Secretary, Anna Russell we make this blazing offer: We will help count the petitions so the deadline is met. And, we will do it for free.
At a press conference Monday morning, the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association asked Mayor Turner to stop dragging his feet. Certify the 32,000 verified signatures now.
According to http://www.letthevotersdecide.us/ starting Fire Fighters make $28,900 per year. That’s $13,100 less than the starting salary of Houston Police. Since 2011, Police have gotten 26% pay raises, compared to the just 3% raises given to Fire Fighters.
“It’s just not fair,” says Wayne Dolcefino, president of Dolcefino Consulting, “Other cities have pay parity for fire and police. The Mayor’s office seems to be deliberately delaying a thing called democracy…let the voters decide.”
With only 2 weeks left to certify the names and draft an election order, time is short.
Mayor Turner, you have our number. Let’s get this done.
Momentum is growing to stop Houston Mayor Sylvester and Houston City Council from making a multi-million-dollar mistake.
Houston’s best-known environmentalist, Attorney and Rice University Professor James Blackburn is calling on City leaders to reject the proposed recycling contract with FCC Environmental Services. Back in 2014, Blackburn was one of a 10 member panel appointed by former Mayor Annise Parker to advise the city on the feasibility of the One Bin For All program that could end the need for expensive and dirty landfills.
In his letter, Blackburn states, “no solution comes close to the One Bin For All concept,” and calls it a “true view of the future.” He urges City leaders to “help lead us to that future by example.”
Blackburn also called the proposed 15-year contract with FCC way too long stating that it ties the City to a program that is “inferior and beneath the standards that should exist for a great city.”
Mayor Turner announced the deal with FCC late last month and lost his cool when reporters started questioning the details and the flip flop on Houston’s recycling future. The city already lost a potential $70 million-dollar federal grant because of Turner’s about face. When asked about One Bin For All, Mayor Turner said it was a deal put together by the previous administration that he had no requirement to continue.
Documents have surfaced alleging Solid Waste Boss Harry Hayes may have been playing favorites for big garbage companies, who stand to lose millions if One Bin was chosen. Adding to the allegations of possible corruption, Mayor Turner is fighting release of phone records, e-mails, even documents that identify the process used to pick the proposed new FCC deal.
Despite the Mayor’s objections to One Bin For All, the City was in support of the program at some point. The City of Houston’s own website still has a page up for the program.
Don’t believe us? Here’s the link: http://www.houstontx.gov/onebinforall/
George Gitschel, the inventor of the One Bin For All concept is urging all residents of the city of Houston to contact their city council member and ask they vote no on the deal with FCC.
The City Council Community Affairs Committee is scheduled to review the deal with FCC at 9:30 am tomorrow.One Bin for All letter to Mayor and City Council 7.17.17
COH Community Affairs Agenda July 18