Cypress Council refuses to post Valley Vista contract violation to website

Valley Vista truck works in Cypress. Courtesy photo

The Cypress City Council has voted against posting online a contract violation of a waste hauling company to which it has given a no-bid contract worth an estimated $100 million.
At its April 24 meeting, the council voted 3-2 not to post the results of an investigation that confirms the waste hauler violated for a period of months state rules in collecting refuse and recyclables.

The company, Valley Vista Services, has been investigated by the city for “commingling” solid waste and recyclables from a gated community in Cypress, according to a letter written to the company by city manager Peter Grant.

“The city has completed its investigation of Valley Vista Services’ (VVS) self-reporting that it commingled solid waste and recyclables from a gated residential community in Cypress known as Ovation at Flora Park. The commingling occurred over four to six months in 2022. The results of the investigation are attached to this letter,” said Grant in a letter to the company.

Nevertheless, the council refused to back a motion by Council member Frances Marquez to provide additional details on how the investigation was conducted and voted 3-2 against a motion by Council member David Burke to post the violation and details to the city’s website alongside the contract.

In addition, the city decided to forgive, or at least, not pursue, liquidated damages against the company that are allowable in the much-decried Valley Vista no-bid contract.

“A liquidated damages penalty of $6,000 ($250 per weekly incident of commingling for six months) is also assessed. However, the liquidated damages penalty is held in abeyance for the reasons listed below,” Grant informed the company in the letter.

The reason for not imposing the penalty, it said, includes VVS’s self-reporting of the incident, that despite the commingling, the city still met recycling diverse rates in the contract, and Grant’s letter claims VVS was “responding to residents” to reduce the impact of trash trucks.

Marquez, who placed the item on the agenda, acknowledged Grant’s brief memos on the incident but said “on Sept. 22 (2022), Valley Vista was given a directive to correct by the city of Cypress for commingling refuse and recycling. Since that time, there’s been an investigation and I have seen no full evaluation on how the VVS investigation was conducted and the process used to carry it out.”

“I really think we need to get to the heart of the issue and have some oversight. I would like a hearing or a presentation on the investigation,” she said. “We are spending taxpayer money.”

Marquez questioned the administration’s handling of VVS. “The contract stipulates VVS has required reporting requirements. What have they been submitting? Because I just feel it shouldn’t have been a surprise that they commingled refuse after the first month.”

The city’s investigation revealed VVS commingled refuse and recyclables for a period of four to six months, beginning in Sept. 2022.

She also wanted to know whether VVS appointed a “liaison” to resolve citizen complaints, and why the city, after the extended contract violation, chose not to declare VVS a “habitual violator” and potentially put the company in danger of losing its contract.
At one point, Marquez was interrupted by city attorney Fred Galante, saying the information she was now requesting was exceeding the limits of the item placed on the agenda. “I would just advise the council to keep it to that particular talk that was listed on the agenda,” said Galante.

Marquez received no council support for her motion for a hearing on the matter but did second Burke’s motion to place the VVS violation notices and the investigation memo on the website.

“The city was entitled to collect liquidated damages as part of that and declined to do so,” said Burke.

“And that decision was not the council’s decision. It was city staff’s decision. I think council member Marquez wanted the public to be more aware of this. I think that you’re good to put this information on the city’s website alongside the existing franchise agreements and amendments that the city has with VVS and I think that way, it’s just a centralized place residents can go if they’re trying to look at the contract for any related matters,” he said.

Mayor Pro-tem Scott Minikus asked Galante if it would be legal to put the VVS investigation on the website.

“Mr. city attorney, I just wanted clarification that we can post that, that it’s not an internal document with any type of violations or contract or anything like that,” he asked Galante.
“It’s on the public agenda this evening so I don’t have an issue,” the city attorney said.
Nevertheless, Minikus, along with Mayor Hertz-Mallari and Council member Bonnie Peat voted not to post the public document on its website that detailed Valley Vista contract violations while Burke and Marquez voted to do so.

Council member Bonnie Peat, during her Council member remarks, defended her vote on the issue saying the VVS violation information was made available on the Council agenda and other ways and s considered it sufficiently available to the public.