Originally created 12/23/01

Red herring letter



The logical leap is staggering: CSRA Waste Inc.'s attorney charges Augusta Mayor Bob Young tipped off Sheriff Ronnie Strength in the Case of the Co-Mingled Garbage.

Further, attorney Ed Tarver alleges in a letter to the city attorney, that Young only found out about the supposed mixed garbage because one of CSRA Waste's competitors, who happened to contribute $1,000 this year to Young's political campaign fund, told him about it.

Therefore - and here's where the logic astounds us - because the tip came from a competitor, the arrest of CSRA President Kester Uzochukwu for fraud was politically motivated and wrong.

There's no doubt that a few competitors who did not win the bid to haul city garbage were disappointed. After all, Uzochukwu's price was substantially lower than the others, raising the question: Can it really be done so cheaply?

It would not be surprising, then, if one of them took it upon himself to do a little reconnaissance work and see if CSRA Waste was cutting corners.

But all the mayor did was pass along the tip to the sheriff, who conducted his own investigation.

It's apparent that Tarver (whose law firm also represents The Chronicle) wants to keep his client in the running for future bids on additional service areas in Augusta. Tarver forgets that Young doesn't make that decision - it's made by City Administrator George Kolb, who has a three-year contract and doesn't run for office.

In his letter, Tarver says the public was led to believe The Chronicle conducted an impartial investigation of CSRA Waste, but that, in truth, the newspaper was helped by Augusta Disposable and Recycling Inc.'s William Polonus and an employee of the city who used to work at the landfill.

So what? It's obvious reporters were tipped off that the garbage contract was not being properly executed. All reporters and photographers had to do was follow some trucks to discover that recyclables and garbage were being mixed together. It was like taking candy from a baby.

The sheriff's investigation was about whether CSRA Waste was mixing garbage from private contracts with the city garbage and dumping it all for free. Private contracts have separate tipping fees, while city contract garbage is paid for by property owners.

Everyone else is to blame: the newspaper, the mayor, the sheriff, the other garbage collectors, employees of the city - everyone but Tarver's client. But even if all that Tarver says is true, it's irrelevant - a red herring. The central issue isn't about who or why the whistle was blown on CSRA Waste, but whether the hauling firm broke its contract with the city or, even worse, broke the law.