Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Missouri Supreme Court Says its Legal for County to Require Some Residents (Note: not all) to Pay an Unwanted Trash Hauler for Services

Three taxpayers Mike Weber, Paul Marquis, and Cathy Armbruster and three trash haulers, IESI MO Corporation, Veolia ES Solid Waste Midwest, LLC, and Allied Services, LLC appealed the trial court’s dismissal of their suit challenging the validity of county ordinances establishing a new trash collection program in unincorporated areas of the county in which they live.

In a 5-2 decision the Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed the trial court’s judgment. The county did not violate its charter by establishing the trash collection areas, the taxpayers lack standing (a legally recognized right to sue) to allege a violation of a state statute requiring notice to existing trash haulers, and they fail to establish a violation of the state’s merchandising practices act. As such, the trial court properly dismissed their suit.

In December 2006, St. Louis County enacted an ordinance establishing collection “areas” in unincorporated parts of the county “for the collection of waste and recovered materials” and authorizing the county to advertise for bids and proposals for the collection and transfer of such waste in those collection areas. Under the ordinance, the selected trash haulers would provide exclusive services in only certain areas. Subdivision who did not want the county designated service provider could refuse the service.

As one resident put it, “How can you pass a law that only applies to certain people? It’s either all or none. This is ridiculous. If the County is in the trash business, that’s one thing, but they’re not. They’re forcing an unwanted trash hauler down our throat. I don’t have a problem with a law requiring trash pickup, but let me select my service provider. Do you want to select my doctor next?”

In 2008, the county executed contracts with three trash haulers to collect waste in eight collection areas. No payments were made to the county; its residents were forced to have independent contracts with the selected haulers. If a person lived in a subdivision, the subdivision was able to opt-out of the program. This was done by several hundred subdivisions in the County.

In November 2008, the county enacted another ordinance prohibiting trash haulers that had not been selected in the bidding process from providing waste collection services in the eight designated collection areas. Three taxpayers who live in designated collection areas subsequently filed a class action petition against the county and the three haulers challenging the waste collection program. They alleged the ordinances violate the county charter as well as a state statute. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, with prejudice (preventing the suit from being refilled), for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The taxpayers appeal.

The Court affirms the county did not violate its charter by establishing the trash collection areas. The division of the county into geographic regions for trash collection purposes does not by itself require voter approval. Rather, voter approval is triggered when those regions pay for services using funds the county has raised through special assessment, general taxation or service charge on the regions’ residents.

Here, the county never collects any monies from its residents for trash services. Instead, the citizens have independent contracts with the trash collectors, which they pay directly. The court made no mention about the forced selection of trash collectors.

The court said the taxpayers lack individual and taxpayer standing to challenge the county’s alleged failure to comply with section 260.247, RSMo. They allege this statute required the county to provide two years’ notice by certified mail to the previous trash haulers before replacing them.

To have standing, a plaintiff must have a legally protectable interest in the litigation so as to be affected directly and adversely by its outcome – a personal stake in the outcome in the controversy. Such an interest exists if the plaintiff is affected directly and adversely by the action in question or if the plaintiff’s interest is conferred by a state statute.

Here, the taxpayers are not engaged in the business of trash collection. They fail to show how the lack of notice adversely affected them. They do not have a legally protectable interest in the outcome of their claim and, therefore, do not have standing. They also do not have taxpayer standing, as they have not pleaded any facts showing that taxpayer funds were expended due to the lack of notice to the trash haulers.

The taxpayers’ claim that the county and trash haulers violated the state’s merchandising practices act by making false statements about the legality of the trash ordinances and by coercing citizens to transact business with the selected trash haulers is derivative of their earlier claim that the county ordinances are invalid. The ordinances are not invalid, and it is not unlawful to enforce valid laws.


  1. Anonymous7:51 AM

    We should all be grateful that we have laws and courts to enforce them. Too bad we don’t have a JUSTICE system. Does anyone else want to start a pool to pick the date that the next civil war will begin if government at all levels doesn’t learn to reign itself in. They fail us in so many ways when it comes to doing things they are charged with doing but abuse their power in sooooooo may other ways.

  2. Anonymous9:55 AM

    This story is over.

    I wonder how much money was spent to get to this point.

    No wonder the country is in the shape it is.

  3. Anonymous9:44 PM

    The next civil war will be fought against the communism that is overtaking our country. Our government leaders can hire their friends and cronies, no one protects us. The politicians are the new elite. They promise handouts to the non-working and illegal aliens to get votes. All government policies encourage jobs to be sent overseas. So where does that leave the former middle class? Communism coming to a neighborhood near you.

  4. Anonymous11:58 AM

    We need to protect ourselves by being informed of what is happening in our country and local community and getting our lazy backsides off of the couch on election day to vote the creeps that are sticking it to us out of office. Government at all levels is the way it is because we keep allowing the sleazebags to get reelected.

  5. Anonymous9:58 PM


  6. Anonymous7:42 AM

    Looks like government of the people, for the people and by the people is beginning to die in the state of Missouri just as it has already been interred in St. Louis County.
    VIVA la REVOLUTION!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Anonymous11:05 PM

    Waaaaaaaaaaaa, we have to use a designated trash service. Boo hoo hoo. Makes sense to limit trash companies. If you have 20 different haulers running all over the place, you tear up the roads quicker. Bunch of cry babies.