I had the privilege of briefing and appearing on the writ petition granted on October 7 invalidating an exclusive 10-year trash hauling contract awarded by the City of Los Alamitos last year. The City enacted a competitive bidding ordinance in 2008 requiring all such contracts be awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder.” Thereafter, one trash hauler—the one who eventually won the exclusive contract—contributed approximately $36,000 in campaign support to one incumbent and two challenger candidates to the City Council. The 2008 election resulted in three of five City Council members how had received significant contributions from one trash hauler.
By the City’s own estimates, the “winning” bidder’s fees would total approximately $21.9 million over the ten years of the contract. The lowest responsible bidder offered to do the same job for a projected cost of approximately $15.4 million over ten years—a savings of about $6.5 million, or 30%. Far from awarding the contract to this “lowest responsible bidder” as required by the City’s own municipal code, it awarded it to the second highest bidder.
It was a great privilege working on and prevailing in this case headed by Ben Pugh, with whom I also worked in scoring a major victory against the City of Irvine’s subsidiary, the Orange County Great Park Corporation. That earlier case resulted in a published Court of Appeal decision in Choi et al. v. Orange County Great Park Corporation, 175 Cal. App. 4th 524 (2009).
These experiences continue to confirm that government’s tendency toward mischief varies inversely with it size.