Mitchell: Obligation to New Bedford Taxpayers, Not ABC Disposal
Mayor Jon Mitchell said it's "unfortunate" that the relationship between the City of New Bedford and ABC Disposal has reached the point where the City has had to take its trash collector to court, and where the company's CEO, Michael Camara, seems to have taken the lawsuit personally.
"They're a great family business, and a terrific family. It's unfortunate we are where we are," Mitchell said in his weekly appearance on WBSM.
Camara called into WBSM's Phil Paleologos Show Tuesday, and said the lawsuit was "not fair," because of the nature of the family-run business.
"I'm so upset because when you sue ABC Disposal, you sue my mother, Linda Camara, who is 83 years old," he said. "I mean, who would want their mom to be sued at 83 years old? It's just too much stress. It's not fair."
On Wednesday, Mitchell dismissed the idea that the lawsuit is personal.
"We don't do things personally," Mitchell said. "I like the Camara family. I respect the business they've built. But my obligation is not to them and their profitability. It's to the residents of the city that work hard and pay their taxes."
Michael Camara has sent letters to New Bedford and other local communities with whom his company has contracted to collect recyclables, stating that after June 30th, ABC has to raise its rates for recyclable pickup, due to a change in what China is willing to import.
He maintains that footing the bill itself would cause ABC to fall into financial ruin. The communities countered by sending their own letter, reiterating their frequent request to see the company's books before they agree to a rate increase, to make sure the company would become insolvent if it doesn't get the increase.
So far, ABC has not complied, which is why New Bedford filed the lawsuit.
"As much as I can sympathize with the plight of the business, I owe it to the city taxpayers to make sure those who contract with the City are actually performing their contracts," Mitchell said. "So we were left with little choice but to take the step we took this week, which is to seek an injunction to force ABC to honor its duty under the contract."
Mitchell said he's "not closing the door on anything," and still may be willing to pay more once he sees ABC's books.
"What he's saying is, 'I'm less profitable because of what's happening in China.' And we can't just take that at face value," Mitchell said. "So you're less profitable. There are lots of reasons you could be less profitable. And frankly, you accepted the risk of becoming less profitable (when agreeing to the contract)."
"ABC went into bankruptcy before the China Sword Policy went into effect, so through some of its own business decisions, it put itself in a more precarious business position," he said.
There is a preliminary hearing Tuesday, and Mitchell said he's hopeful it would lead to ABC continuing to honor the contract, which is currently in the fifth year of a 10-year agreement.
"All I know is, my city has a contract with this company, they threatened not to honor the contract, and so we're going into court to get them to honor the contract," he said. "We're asking the judge to say, 'ABC, do what you said you would do.'"
If not, he reiterated the City would be willing to move forward with a new hauler come July 1. ABC was notified this week that the Town of Plymouth was terminating its contract with the company over the same issue, and New Bedford may follow suit.
"I'd love to have ABC continue in its role as the service provider," he said. "But if it's not ABC, it'll be somebody else."