HOUSTON — A company that has long claimed it was prevented from bidding on the chance to run the city’s recycling program won an open records battle in court, with a State District judge signing a ruling Wednesday demanding the city provide requested documents that City Hall has been withholding for almost a year.
The head of recycling company EcoHub, George Gitschel, has said he believes seeing the documents will prove his allegation that Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration is too chummy with the giant, well-heeled trash companies, causing him to be edged out.
Some of the document requests, made under the state’s public information act, are 11 months old. That is long past the date when state law suggests the records should have been turned over.
Under Judge Kristen Hawkins’ order, the city must produce all of the requested documents and provide them to her office, so she can examine them and make a decision on what should be made public.
The city must provide all the documents by Jan. 5, according to the order.
EcoHub has been represented by Dolcefino Consulting, which has spearheaded the fight for these records, which include emails, text messages, and phone records. Dolcefino Consulting chief Wayne Dolcefino has said for months that he believed that city was in serious violation of the state’s public information act, so he took the Turner administration to court.
“This is a major victory for the public’s right to know,” Dolcefino said. “Houston taxpayers owe a debt of gratitude to Stewart Hoffer of the Hicks Thomas law firm. I know we do. They have fought for transparency at Houston City Hall.”
Hoffer proved the city was improperly hiding emails, including documents that detail possible bid rigging and ethical misconduct by Houston garbage chief Harry Hayes, Dolcefino said.
A spokeswoman for Turner declined comment, siting that the lawsuit is still pending.
The controversy over the records that City Hall has been keeping under wraps surrounds Houston’s $48.4 million recycling proposal.
EcoHub CEO Gitschel said earlier this year that he could have saved taxpayers as much as $40 million if he had gotten the deal.
Instead, the city awarded recycling to a multinational garbage firm, which is due to be voted on next week.
“It is not too late to delay this vote, so that Houstonians will know the whole truth,” Gitschel said. “We stand ready to help Houston save millions of dollars and help the environment at the same time.”
An email obtained by The Texas Monitor suggests that Gitschel’s firm and his “One-Bin” recycling plan never had much of a chance to win a bid.
Gitschel said Eco-Hub’s proposed his “One-Bin” plan and his proposed state-of-the-art recycling facilities would eliminate the need for landfills. He said he believes that threatened the trillion-dollar garbage industry that makes the lion’s share of its money off of hauling trash to landfills.
See the other reports from The Texas Monitor on the Houston recycling controversy here:
- Transparency hearing Tuesday puts city of Houston in spotlight
- Lawsuit aims to shake emails loose from Houston City Hall
- Houston mayor reverses course on recycling deal
- Houston trash deal vote delayed amid questions over transparency, pricing
- Houston’s trash deal smells, wants probe into possible bid rigging, recycling inventor says
Trent Seibert can be reached at 832-258-6119 or [email protected].