In 2012, the city of Inglewood, California was in the midst of negotiating a new trash-collection contract. By June, that contract was filled by Consolidated Disposal Services, but not without a significant amount of controversy. It turns out Consolidated Disposal Services had a notable link to Inglewood’s mayor, James Butts Jr.
A complaint was filed with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office later that same year alleging that the mayor made statements suggesting he would support the bidding company that took the initiative to hire his brother, who was unemployed at the time.
In a recent article posted by the Los Angeles Times, It seems no coincidence that Mayor Butts’ brother, Michael Butts, was then hired as an operations manager for the company, earning a reported five-figure annual salary.
The complaint was filed by the executive vice president of a competing bidding company, Athens Services, who claims that the matter was investigated by the FBI but that charges were never pursued. In a statement made to the LA Times, Clifford alleges that his conversation with Mayor Butts occurred in person and that the mayor made statements along the lines of, “It would be favorable for you if you could find my brother a job,” during this confrontation.
In addition to the official complaint filed by Athens Services’ executive VP, Gary Clifford, the integrity division of the district attorney’s office received a letter of complaint by a member of the City Council, Judy Dunlap, a month after the contract was approved. The letter claims that Mayor Butts had initiated conversations with executive employees from two of the bidding companies on the subject of offering his brother a position within their companies. Gary Clifford was one of the employees named in this letter as well as Doug Corcoran, director of operations of Waste Management.
Corcoran, however, maintains that the mayor did not approach him at all. The director of operations says that, instead, it was he who approached the mayor in order to discuss the possibility of hiring his brother. Corcoran says that he received word that Michael Butts was unemployed and thought that he could find a place for him within the company, but that he ultimately could not.
Mayor Butts has remained adamant that no such interactions took place and that he acted responsibly during the negotiation and voting process in order to avoid a conflict of interest. Although the mayor did participate in the initial voting process and approved of the negotiations made with Consolidated Disposal Services, he was absent from the final vote that took place at the beginning of June 2012. The contract with Consolidated Disposal Services was approved by the City Council with a vote of 3 to 1. Judy Dunlap was the only member of the City Council to cast a no vote, which she did out of concern for the residents of Inglewood. In the complaint letter filed with the district attorney’s office, Dunlap says that it is “unconscionable” to accept a contract that would cost residents millions of dollars more than the alternative.
Mayor Butts disagrees with the idea that Athens, the lowest bidding company of the three that submitted contracts, would have been a better fit, pointing out that the higher contract may have been due to the fact that the employees of Consolidated Disposal Services were represented by a union.