By Luke Thomas
July 27, 2012
The California Fair Political Practices Commission has rejected a complaint filed by San Francisco-based garbage company Recology, which accused a former Superior Court Judge of violating campaign ethics laws.
The ethics complaint was filed by Recology June 4, one day before voters went to the polls to vote on Proposition A, a local initiative on the June ballot sponsored by retired Superior Court Judge Quentin Kopp and endorsed by 48 neighborhood groups among other community-based organizations. Just days earlier on May 24, with Kopp in attendance, it was announced that two civil lawsuits – one on behalf of the State of California – were filed against Recology based on sworn testimony from a former Recology employee turned whistleblower who accused Recology of fraud and embezzlement of taxpayer funds.
Recology, which has enjoyed a monopoly over San Francisco ratepayers since 1932, alleged Kopp failed to disclose the funding source of a political mailer in support of the measure.
According to documents filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission, California Waste Solutions, Inc, a recycling company that stood to benefit if Proposition A passed, contributed $25,000 on May 18 to the Good Government Alliance Committee, a previous candidate-controlled independent expenditure committee formed by Kopp in 1989 and amended May 24 to function as a general purpose committee.
“In response to the complaint you submitted regarding the [Good Government Alliance Committee], the Fair Political Practices Commission has found insufficient evidence to establish a violation of the Political Reform Act,” wrote Gary Winuk, FPPC Chief of Enforcement, in a July 19 letter to Recology attorney Thomas Willis. “There is no evidence that the mailer paid for by Good Government Alliance Committee should have identified California Waste Solutions in any way. As such, we are closing this case without further action.”
Proposition A failed with 23 percent of voter support. It sought to reduce garbage collection rates via open, competitive bidding while addressing a lack of public oversight and accountability. California garbage companies are unregulated.
Recology spent $1.5 million to defeat the measure, monies that benefited political and media organizations including candidates running for elected office.
Responding to the FPPC complaint dismissal on behalf of Recology, Willis told Fog City Journal, “We’re disappointed because the FPPC did look into it and we met the initial threshold requirement that they were going to investigate because they believed there was something there and they ultimately decided not to levy a fine.”
“There could be a variety of reasons why the FPPC acted the way they did,” Willis added. “We continue to believe there was a violation.”
Willis said he hopes the San Francisco Ethics Commission, which also received a copy of Recology’s complaint, will investigate. The Ethics Commission has said it could not confirm or deny the existence of the complaint. Willis said the commission has not contacted him.
Kopp slams Recology
Kopp said he isn’t surprised to learn of the FPPC’s dismissal of Recology’s complaint, calling the unregulated monopoly a “virtual criminal enterprise.”
“It demonstrates the hollow nature of any claim by Recology, which is an untrustworthy company, and also those public relations people, Adam Alberti and Sam Singer – the falsity of anything Gale Kaufman would represent to the public,” Kopp said.
Kaufman was the consultant hired by Recology to defeat Proposition A. Alberti and Singer work for Singer Associates, Recology’s public relations firm.
Kaufman’s firm referred our request for comment to Recology. Neither Recology nor Singer Associates responded to requests seeking comment.