Union alleges dirty politics in Fresno garbage votes

FRESNO, Calif.

Marina Magdellano is Business Manager for Stationary Engineers Local 39. The Union is asking the Fresno City Attorney to investigate City Council Member Larry Westerlund, and outgoing Council Member Mike Dages and their relationship to a campaign consultant who also works for Allied Waste, one of the trash companies bidding for city business.

"It's a close relationship they've paid him a lot of money to run their campaigns," said Magdellano. "It's not clean and these two guys should have recused themselves from voting yes on this issue."

Both Dages and Westerlund have acknowledged employing consultant Mark Scozzari, but deny he influenced their votes last month to advance privatization, which they believe will earn the city $2.5 million a year.

The union also has questions about council member Lee Brand's decision to first recuse himself from voting on a matter relating to privatization, then deciding to vote on the issue.

"Why recuse yourself then, and not recuse yourself now, what changed." Magdelano asks.

Brand says because he owns and manages commercial property that would be affected by a change in garbage service he recused himself from the issue until he learned from the city attorney that he didn't' have a conflict.

"I did that, just to be safe to make sure as we went forward I would be in a position to have no conflict of interest." Brand said.

In order to pass, the privatization measure needs four votes. Brand, along with Westerlund and Council Member Andreas Borgeas are supporters of privatization. But Council Members Blong Xiong, and Clint Olivier are opposed.

"Unless I hear something new, I have no plan to change my mind." Olivier said.

Incoming council member Sal Quintero is also opposed, and incoming council member Oliver Baines is undecided.

Under the plan most of the affected city garbage workers would be offered jobs with the private companies, at lower pay and only for six months.

The City Council is expected to vote on the measure at their first meeting of the New Year on Thursday.

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