Two subcontractors have sued Southern Waste Systems, saying it misled the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County about their small-business participation in 2013 as part of the five-year, $44.7 million trash collection contract it received from the county.
Brilliant Minds Enterprises and James Jr. Enterprises make the claims in a $1.6 million suit filed Sept. 14, naming the Broward County-based Southern Waste and the authority. The suit alleges the authority is not enforcing the small-business requirements of the contract.
Brilliant Minds owner Tina White said Friday that her suit also contends the authority has a systematic preference for white-owned businesses.
The authority’s contract with Southern Waste was part of a $205.7 million deal that the county commission, acting as the authority board, gave in 2013 to four companies to collect garbage in four unincorporated sectors of the county. Southern Waste was awarded 74,200 curbside and containerized pickups in the southeast part of the county.
When Southern Waste first applied in 2012, the authority’s staff recommended to county commissioners that only companies with at least 30,000 curbside customers be allowed to bid. At the time, Southern Waste served 7,000 homes in the county, although it said it also serviced 12,500 homes in Lauderhill, near Fort Lauderdale. In October 2012, the board voted unanimously to let Southern Waste bid.
The contract required 15 percent participation by small businesses.
Southern Waste President Charles Gusmano said in a January 2013 sworn affidavit that the firm would subcontract for five years with Riviera Beach-base Brilliant Minds for $627,500, for administrative and management services, and with West Palm Beach-based James Jr. Enterprises for $998,000, for vegetation collection and truck towing, according to the subcontractors’ lawsuit.
Instead, Southern Waste subcontracted the pickup to a different firm, Jet Hauling Inc., and didn’t subcontract the towing or office services to anyone, the suit says.
White also said Friday that the two firms combined only ever accounted for 9 percent of Southern Waste’s 15 percent requirement.
The two small businesses were black-owned, and one was female-owned, which constituted “motivating factors” in the authority’s not enforcing the violations of the contract, according to the lawsuit.
While the county-wide collection contracts are done every five years, “this is the first time black firms have ever participated as contractors in this procurement,” White said. “It was very historical, for no better word, that we were even included.”
Except they weren’t, the suit contends.
In December, the Solid Waste Authority hired Oakland, Calif.-based Mason Tillman Associates for $341,425, for a one-year study of whether businesses owned by minorities and women get a fair share of contracts. The company has scheduled a town hall meeting about the study on Oct. 8 at the authority offices.
Get the latest Palm Beach County news as it happens at the Eye on Palm Beach County blog. eyeonpbc.blog.PalmBeachPost.com