RAWLINS – A Carbon County District Court judge on Monday ruled that the city of Rawlins must release a redacted minutes report from an executive session dating back to April.
The public information request was made by Rose Cain, owner of Dirty Boyz Sanitation Service Inc., one of two waste companies in Rawlins, which was locally established about 10 years ago.
According to Cain’s claim, city officials weren’t operating within their legal boundaries when, on April 17, they allegedly made a closed-door decision to continue a hauler’s license with Wyoming Waste Solutions, the other waste provider in the area, which is a conglomerate owned by Canada-based Waste Connections.
The alleged decision came just days after city manager Scott Hannum notified WWS District Site Manager Bruce Leven that they were infringing upon the terms of their non-exclusive franchise agreement. According to a March 17 notification letter, Hannum wrote that WWS was not maintaining an office within the city of Rawlins and that all customer calls are relayed to an operating center in Rock Springs.
The revocable, non-exclusive agreement explicitly states that WWS “shall maintain an office and business telephone within the City for the convenience of its customers during normal business hours.”
On Aug. 14, Cain filed suit against the city in District Court, claiming their subsequent decision in executive session to sustain the hauler’s license with WWS violates the Wyoming Public Meetings Act.
Attorney Craig Silva, who’s representing the City, cited on Monday several Wyoming Supreme Court precedent cases, including Gronberg v. Teton County Housing Authority (2011), which determined that defendants were absolved of any Public Meetings Act violations once they held a vote during a properly-noticed public meeting following a preceding executive session.
Based on these precedents, Silva suggested the case be dismissed on WRCP 12(b)(6) grounds. In addition, Silva stated that Cain has “some sort of anger towards the city of Rawlins” and that any civil litigation regarding the matter would “cost the municipality money.”
“There’s got to be a more practical way to analyze this problem,” Silva said.
Silva then made two proposals.
One, he said, would be for the city to hold a public hearing regarding the alleged April hauler’s license decision with WWS, which would adhere to the rulings with the precedent cases. Or two – and Silva said this was a favorite option – have the city simply release the redacted executive session minutes from April 17.
Silva argued to have the minutes redacted to keep other personnel matters away from public light.
“If there’s bare bones minutes, there’s nothing to protect,” he said.
Cain’s attorney, Bruce Moats, argued against simply releasing the redacted executive session minutes.
“This to me sounds like a settlement proposal,” he said.
Moats also argued that there was in fact action taken during the April 17 executive session, which was reported back to WWS by Hannum the following day. Moats said “a decision was made” and that this case needs to be brought back to public session “so other citizens of Rawlins can know what their elected officials are doing.”
In addition, Moats noted, there’s the possibility that the redacted minutes produced by the city could be vague.
“It could just say a complaint from Rose Cain was discussed,” he said.
Judge Dawnessa Snyder ruled in favor of Silva’s second proposal, and allotted 15 days for the city of Rawlins to produce the documents.
A multitude of allegations preceded Monday’s hearing.
When the city of Rawlins was told by the Department of Environmental Quality that their landfill, located on the east side of town at 3001 Gun Club Rd., needed to comply with increased regulations, which ultimately posed more costs to the city budget, they decided to take a different route.
In 2010, Rawlins officials opted not to renew its landfill operating permit once it expired. Instead, the city went on to sign a disposal agreement with the city of Casper, thereby rendering its landfill into a transfer station.
A Landfill Closure project was subsequently established, and the budget for the project eclipsed more than $6.5 million.
To save costs, Dirty Boyz garnered enough funds and various permits to build a transfer station of its own in the Rawlins area. That way they could haul garbage down to a landfill site in Larimer County, Colo. instead of likely incurring increased costs at Rawlins’ transfer station.
This, however, didn’t fly with Rawlins officials. In 2016, the city established a “flow control” ordinance, which barred companies from hauling their garbage to anywhere except the Rawlins transfer station.
In addition, DEQ has allowed the city to continue to use its original site as a landfill until full, which likely won’t happen for the next three or four years. Once the pit closes, the cty is obligated to repay a more than $1.23 million loan it acquired for the Landfill Closure project.
From all this, Cain filed suit against the city in Federal District Court two years ago, claiming the flow control ordinance violates the Contracts Clause and the Wyoming Constitution. The ordinance, however, was upheld by the courts.
Two months ago, although city council members vehemently denied having any prior knowledge of it, despite Mayor Robert Grauberger admitting to “throwing it out there,” rumors spread that Rawlins was going to vote on producing an exclusive franchise agreement with Wyoming Waste Solutions, which would completely oust Cain and essentially put Dirty Boyz out of business.