Trash haulers’ suit against St. Louis County now a federal case


Three waste haulers suing St. Louis County now say they had a constitutional right to receive a state-mandated two years’ notice that the county was planning to establish trash districts — a claim that turns what was a state case into a federal affair, the county counselor said Friday.

In response to the haulers’ first amended petition, which was filed on April 27 and approved on May 21 by St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Scott Bernstein, the county on May 27 filed a notice of removal to take the case out of Circuit Court and have it reviewed at the federal level, County Counselor Patricia Redington said.

The case would proceed at the U.S. District Court in St. Louis unless the plaintiffs raised any ob-jections, Redington said. The suit seeks $25,000 in damages. At press time, no hearings on the case were scheduled.

American Eagle Waste Industries, Meridian Waste Services and Waste Management of Missouri filed suit against the county in May 2008. They allege it violated a state statute by failing to give two years’ notice to waste haulers before it established trash districts.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Jane Dueker, did not respond to a Call request for comment.

But American Eagle Waste owner Bryan Barcom said he believes this change of venue would benefit the haulers’ case.

“Without jumping up and down and screaming too much, it’s a plus for us,” Barcom said. “We’ll just see what the district court says and go from there.”

The County Council unanimously passed an ordinance in December 2006 calling for the future establishment of trash districts.

In 2007, state law changed to require a two-year notice for waste haulers before creating trash districts.

The council formally approved the creation of eight trash districts in unincorporated areas last summer and fall. Three waste haulers — Allied Waste, IESI and Veolia Environmental Services — were awarded bids to serve them exclusively, one per district. American Eagle Waste, Meridian and Waste Management were unsuccessful bidders.

On June 25, 2008, Circuit Judge Steven Goldman dismissed the lawsuit against the county, ruling that because St. Louis County is a charter county, it was exempt from providing the two-year notice state statute 260.247 requires. The haulers appealed the decision, first to the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals and then to the state Supreme Court; both refused to review the ruling.

However, the case returned to the Court of Appeals in July, and on Oct. 21, the court reversed and remanded the original Circuit Court decision to dismiss.

In its opinion, the appellate court wrote that statute 260.247 was a “general statute of statewide public policy” and that St. Louis County couldn’t override it.

The county unsuccessfully appealed this decision to the state Supreme Court, and the case went back to the Circuit Court in February. On May 21, Bernstein voided the June 2008 dismissal decision.

American Eagle Waste is also a plaintiff in a second lawsuit against the county that was filed last August.

In that case, the hauler and county residents Brett Buchanan and Greg Porter contend the eight trash districts were improperly established because the matter was not brought to a public vote in each of the districts. The plaintiffs claim the County Char-ter requires such a vote.

Redington has maintained the council acted appropriately in establishing the districts. A case management conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, June 19.