County officials’ arrogance could cost citizens millions

County Executive Charlie Dooley is hailing as a “win-win” a Supreme Court decision that upholds a lower court’s ruling awarding damages to three trash haulers who sued the county in 2008 over the establishment of its trash-collection program.

Really? We’d be hard pressed to characterize last week’s Supreme Court ruling as a win-win for the county given the fact taxpayers may have to cough up millions of dollars in damages to the three haulers who filed the suit.

A lower court judge already ruled the county owed nearly $1.16 million to the three haulers. The Supreme Court reversed the Circuit Court’s calculation of damages and remanded the issue back to the Circuit Court, but affirmed the judgment “in all other respects,” the ruling stated.

Sixth District Councilman Steve Stenger, a Democrat from Affton who also is an attorney, told the Call’s Kari Williams, “The county faces millions of dollars in damages …”

Stenger also said, “There is certainly nothing in the Supreme Court’s opinion that limits the amount the trial court can award.”

All of this could have been avoided if St. Louis County simply had complied with a state statute that required it to issue a two-year notice to waste haulers before establishing trash districts in unincorporated areas.

During a public hearing in May 2008 — nearly a month before the haulers filed suit against the county — several state legislators contended the notification requirement did apply to St. Louis County.

At that hearing, County Counselor Pat Redington arrogantly countered that the notification requirement did not apply to St. Louis County because it is a charter county.

Now four years later — and after numerous legal twists and turns — the Supreme Court has ruled St. Louis County was required to adhere to the notification statute.

Dooley said he believes the ruling is a “win-win” for the county because the trash-collection program will stay in place. That wasn’t the issue in this case, as the county has prevailed in several legal challenges that sought to dismantle the program.

As we’ve said before, many of the goals county officials claim they want to attain with the trash-collection program are desirable and even admirable.

It’s a darn shame county taxpayers are at risk of paying millions of dollars just because of the sheer arrogance of the Dooley administration.