On January 13, the Chula Vista City Council — in the wake of an acrimonious standoff — selected Steve Miesen to fill the council seat vacated by Mary Casillas Salas when she became mayor.
Although Miesen has been active in the South Bay community and appears to be well liked, his appointment continues to be challenged. He is the division manager of a sole-source waste-collection company, Republic Services, for the City of Chula Vista.
In order to avoid a costly special election and possible runoff, council members settled on Miesen, who refers to himself as the “$1.2 million compromise.”
But the hours expended by city attorneys for vetting and defending Miesen continue to add up.
On February 11, city attorney Glen Googins, said that deputy city attorney Simon Silva is still researching potential conflict-of-interest issues and preparing a report regarding possible scenarios in which Miesen would have to recuse himself.
Googins also noted that in some situations it might be necessary for the city to query the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding potential conflicts.
As the Reader reported in early February, Miesen declared he owned
“$10,000–$20,000 of Republic Services Stock Options” on the January 6 disclosure form he submitted prior to being interviewed by the council.
Shortly after Miesen was appointed to the council, he filed a 700 conflict-of-interest form. No Republic Services stock options appeared on this form.
When asked about the discrepancy between the two statements, Googins said, “I believe as a result of our discussions he sold his stock.”
During a February 12 interview with Miesen, he confirmed that he no longer has the stock. When asked if he sold the stock, he described the action as “exercising my stock options.”
Republic Services is a nationwide company and, according to its website, “…is the second largest provider of services in the domestic non-hazardous solid waste industry, as measured by revenue as well as a Fortune 500 company, publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.”
Because the City of Chula Vista engages Republic Services through a public/private partnership, there is a blurring of roles. A 2014 Yelp comment exemplifies this: “outrageous behavior, arbitrary pricing, they do not have to follow any rules because of the monopoly status they have with the city of chula vista.”
Legal challenges to Miesen’s appointment also continue to drive up hours expended by city attorneys. Jill Galvez, one of 44 applicants considered for the two-year vacancy, filed a complaint against Miesen’s appointment with the California attorney general.
In her complaint, she draws an analogy between the potential conflict-of-interest problems inherent in Miesen’s appointment and the time, in 2003, when David Malcolm served as a port commissioner while he also was a consultant for Duke Energy. In her letter to the attorney general, Galvez writes:
“…about a decade ago, a former port commissioner, David Malcolm, also did consulting work for Duke Energy. Malcolm conducted his business in the open, and attorneys for the port district allowed him to serve both roles. Malcolm ended up going to jail for [conflict of interest]."
Malcolm served 120 work furlough days and paid $260,000 restitution for a felony conflict-of interest charge.
“Here in Chula Vista,” continues Galvez’s complaint, “there wasn't another trash hauler that bid on the waste contract with the city. Republic is not only the sole source contractor, but also appears not to have any competition that could aid the citizens in Chula Vista by advocating for fairness and impartiality on our City Council.”
In addition to Galvez’s complaint, Chris Shilling, through the offices of Coast Law Group, LLP, and Briggs Law Corporation, has filed a letter of intent with the City of Chula Vista. Shilling challenged the procedure for nominating council candidates, arguing that a candidate nomination was tantamount to a secret ballot and demanding the violation be cured by repeating the nomination process in public and allowing the public the right to comment on candidates under consideration.
The city council will take up this issue in closed session on February 17. If the city does not respond by the end of the week, Shilling has 15 days to file a suit.
While a full report from the city attorney is pending, business carries on and so does Miesen, who says he works 10- to 12-hour days for Republic Services. To juggle Republic and council responsibilities, Miesen says he intends to step down from several non-profit boards on which he serves.