Thursday, July 08, 2010

Court Reverses Guilty Verdict on County Trash Service

EAN YOUNG, Call Newspaper

July 07, 2010 - The Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals  reversed a St. Louis County Circuit Court's guilty verdict against a county resident for not having trash service under the county's waste management code.

A panel of appellate judges reversed the circuit court's decision against David Skaer because the county failed to prove Skaer generated trash.

Skaer was summoned to court last year for failing to have trash service. He lives in the seventh trash district, which is served by Veolia. His defense, like dozens of other residents who've been taken to court since county began enforcing the trash districts in the spring of 2009, was that he didn't generate trash and therefore should not be required to have a waste removal agreement.

Many other county residents are in a similar situation using their trash services at their owned place of business. The primary compliant is it's unfair to have to pay for trash service twice - once at home and once at their business.
The circuit court found Skaer guilty, and he was required to pay a $50 fine. He appealed to the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals in November.

In their opinion last week, appellate Judges Roy Richter, Kenneth Romines and Thomas Frawley took issue with the trial court's accepting as fact, at the prosecution's request over Skaer's objection, that "it's common fact that people who live in houses generate waste."

"Here, the prosecution was required to show both that Skaer did not have a waste management agreement, and that he produced waste," the opinion stated. "We find that the prosecution failed to carry its burden to show that Skaer produced waste.

"Rather than present any evidence of waste produced by Skaer, the prosecution requested that the trial court take judicial notice that 'a residence which is occupied will necessarily generate some possibly small amount of non-recyclable waste.'

The judges stated, "We find that whether or not someone could live at a residence and recycle all his or her waste is not a matter of common knowledge, and should not be accepted as such ... Further, by taking judicial notice of a necessary element of the offense for which there was no evidentiary support, the court improperly shifted the burden to Skaer to prove his innocence. The burden of proof in a criminal case is on the state to prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

County Counselor Patricia Redington said last week she was "disappointed" with the appellate court's decision and said the county hasn't yet decided if it will appeal.


  1. Anonymous10:46 AM

    How do you prove that someone is using their commode in the bathroom when it comes to mandatory MSD charges? I suppose we will need a flush/user meter/counter on the toilet bowl.

    Based on this decission, I would think that many of the counties enforcement practices could be taken to task.

  2. Anonymous10:48 AM

    There are many things that I am involuntarily taxed for, such as public transportation, that I don't use. If I prove I don't use it, shouldn't I be reimbursed my taxes?

  3. Anonymous10:48 AM

    This verdict sounds way more political than judicial.

  4. Anonymous10:56 AM

    Hooray for the citizen(s) of St. Louis County on this one. Thank God there are some judges out there that have some common & judicial sense!
    If the county appeals, all that means is they are spending more of the taxpayer dollars for a most ridiculous suit. It's time for them to stop this nonsense. We don't need any more spending of OUR dollars by the GOV.

  5. Mike Roberts11:03 AM

    This is totally different than using a toilet. The county is forcing residents to use a particular vendor for services. If they said you had to use brand X toilet, they should be sued.

    The county should only be concerned that citizens are disposing of their trash. If someone is compling with this and they're satisfied, let them do their thing.

  6. Anonymous9:46 PM

    In response to Mr. Roberts comment -
    Amen Brother!

  7. Anonymous11:57 PM

    The simple answer to all of this is, if St. Louis County wants to control it, then they need to fund it. If they can't fund it, they need to get out of the middle of it. It has been nothing but a mess and and expensive one at that, ever since they got involved.
    Dooley just can't leave well enough alone.
    We want our choices back.

  8. Anonymous8:35 PM

    My next court date is July 13th maybe I'll have some success too. Dump Dooley and his communism.

  9. Anonymous8:41 PM

    With respect to the commode issue. When you connect to MSD's pipes you are on the hook for the fees. Also I assume MSD could put a flow meter on the pipes. Trash is not a utility or group service. If Dooley wants the county to handle trash do it but don't force me to handle it and take away my countrol. If I get bad service I can't do anything about it. I can't negotiate my price. Dooley took my freedom of choice away.

  10. Anonymous8:50 PM

    Don't mix up taxed services and the trash issue. Public transportation is voted on and adminstrated by a government agency or an organization somewhat controlled by a government. This trash issue is being dictated. If the citizens of St. Louis County voted to approve a tax to fund trash hauling and the county put a department or agency in charge I wouldn't like it but I would feel that the voters approved it. Dooley just dictated that I have to deal with a goverment dictated company. How can the government sign my name to a contract? What's next Dooley dictated lawn care? Dooley approved window cleaning? Dooley is a dictator. It's just wrong.

  11. Anonymous8:49 AM

    The bottom line is simple.
    St. Louis County has spent millions on this failed program, and will continue to spend money on this program until made to stop.
    The devil is in the details on this mismanaged and unwanted program.
    The irony is, almost 25% of the county does not participate in the program at all, because they were smart enough to OPT out at the beginning. The reality, only about 75% of the county participates, and there is no county control over the other 25%.
    St. Louis County and Charlie Dooley has really made a mess out of this, and it continues to be a mess, and the County continues to throw moeny away on a disfunctional plan.