Freed Van der Linde: Govt drops suit against recycler

news-rswaThe board met for over an hour at 7:30am and reconvened at 6pm on Wednesday to hammer out settlement terms. PHOTO BY HAWES SPENCER

Amid a succession of public relations nightmares, including the jailing of its star witness and mounting legal costs (with lawyers billing as much as $515 an hour), the local government that's been using an anti-mafia statute to sue a citizen threw in the towel January 20 as it accepted a $600,000 settlement from the citizen, Peter Van der Linde, a man whose own recycling center brought embarrassment and financial distress to the body suing him, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority.

"This is a good day's work, and I'm glad to see it happen," said Authority board member David Brown, after the unanimous vote to approve the terms of the settlement, which also calls for the Authority's partner-in-trash, BFI, to pay $300,000.

The settlement also dissolves the controversial 1997 agreement between the RSWA and BFI (see Authority director Tom Frederick's summary of the agreement here) that was at the heart of the legal battle. BFI will continue to receive city trash and recycling under the terms of the old agreement until June 30, 2010, which happens to be the same day the city’s support agreement with the Authority ends.

The move comes just a day after former city councilor Rob Schilling called the Authority "corrupt and inept" and accused it of "government thuggery."

Schilling, who has collected hundreds of citizen names on an anti-lawsuit petition and produced bumper stickers reading "Dump R$WA," accused the Authority of using strong-arm techniques against a competitor.

But perhaps the biggest setback to the government's case came in December when the lead witness–- former Van der Linde employee Richard Wade Kendrick–- was convicted by a Fluvanna County jury of attempted extortion for trying to squeeze his former boss out of $90,000.

"They are nothing more than common criminals." Schilling said January 19 on his WINA-AM radio show. "We're going to keep the pressure on until they they just dissolve this Authority and stop the lawsuit."

Waste Authority officials, however, showed little interest in dissolving, having recently begun discussing getting a law to force area households and haulers to use government facilities such as the old Ivy Landfill, and they had defended the lawsuit as a simple debt collection–- even as they conceded that the debts they were trying to collect should have been collected and paid by BFI (also known as Allied and Republic Services due to mergers), which had the responsibility of collecting what amounted to a tax, a $16-per-ton fee on trash from Charlottesville or Albemarle.

The move may come none too soon for Ken Boyd, an avowed free-market Republican who found himself among those pressing the suit while trying to convince the party faithful that he deserves their votes in his fight against at least six fellow Republicans for the party's nomination for the Congressional seat now held by Democrat Tom Perriello.

"We're glad to see it behind us," Boyd said during the public portion of Wednesday's meeting. Asked after the meeting if the suit had hindered his candidacy, Boyd remarked, "I don't think it hindered it at all."

LIkewise, newly seated Republican supervisor Duane Snow says that he not only didn't press for a settlement but also didn't know that the mediation that led to the settlement was going on.

The public got a first glimpse of the main event at Kendrick's trial in Fluvanna when Van der Linde took the stand and denied lying or ever asking his drivers to lie, something the Authority alleged he did. The Authority also alleged that he destroyed incriminating evidence. Van der Linde, who has long called the lawsuit a "vendetta," said the supposed evidence was a bunch of throw-away tickets.

"You don't pay money for no reason," says legal analyst David Heilberg. "Obviously, somebody's weighing the risk of a trial."

Heilberg, noting that he has no inside knowledge of this case, says that all sides are always weighing the risks of moving toward the expensive and uncertain outcome of a trial–- but that some players may have more staying power.

"The guy who has the big guns, the big lawyers, and the deep pockets," says Heilberg, "can wear down an adversary with less resources. He can spend a million dollars to sue you for 100 dollars. He'll show you."

Over the course of the past two years, Van der Linde has tried to show the Authority that there's a better way to handle waste than putting it in the ground. About a year ago, he opened his $11 million recycling facility literally next door to the Authority-sponsored waste station in the Fluvanna County community of Zion Crossroads, and fans say he's built a better mouse-trap. And already, the Authority admits, the shift in business to Van der Linde has been a prime contributor to a 20 percent drop in Authority revenue.

Boyd had begun distancing himself from some of the more extreme aspects of Authority director Tom Frederick's effort to monopolize waste services, but with Boyd and other pols silently supporting the lawsuit, it fell to agitators like Schilling and to would-be official Bob Fenwick, who ran for City Council last year, to make the free-market case for dropping the litigation.

"It's hard enough to start and run a business without having this added burden to deal with," says Fenwick. "It has taken a toll on him even though he's had terrific public support."

So did the lawsuit. Even though it wasn't slated for trial until June, it had already consumed about $340,000 in RSWA funds by late November. Asked Wednesday night where the legal fee tally now stands, lead Authority lawyer Kurt Krueger said he didn't know, but two days later the Authority revealed that the total came to $388,000.

To Albemarle citizen Clara Belle Wheeler, the tipping point came when she learned that the Authority couldn't say how much it was spending each year to operate the McIntire Road recycling facility. After all, Van der Linde had long offered to replace it with 20 such centers scattered around the County–- all open 24/7 and requiring no sorting or personnel.

"If they cannot tell you what it's costing to manage one small bit of it," says Wheeler, "then how can they manage the whole thing? That's absolutely inexcusable."

Ironically, Wednesday's momentous agreement–- which includes a gag order, no admission of liabilty, and gives Van der Linde five years, and BFI/Allied/Republic three years, to pay–- occurred in the absence of Mike Gaffney, the chair of both this Authority and its sibling, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority which has had a town-rocking controversy of its own: an allegedly bloated water plan.

Fenwick hopes that the Waste Authority learned a lesson.

"I can't think of anyone I've met who thinks the public should do this to him," says Fenwick, who operates a website called "He had a real dream and a real vision and just got knee-capped on it."

Fenwick wasn't done.

"It's been a real eye-opener on political maneuvering and special interests and the fact that if government goes after you, they have an endless pot of money to work with," says Fenwick. "And, ironically, it's all your money."

–updated 3:58pm Friday, January 22 with legal analyst info and more

This story is a part of the Waste War: the fight over trash and recycling special.
Read more on: Peter Van der Linderswa


Frederick, had everything riding on this lawsuit and he lost --he wasted our time and irreparably harmed Mr. Van der Linde--hope his bags are packed--no one wants to see you hanging around here any longer.

And he wasted our money -bon voyage Frederick

That is to say, no local elected official or RSWA board member participated in the go-rounds of the mediation. Also, it wasn't clear to me that BFI was also being sued.

Ken Boyd is clueless. Just another transparent politician that thinks he can have it both ways. He is an example of exactly what we Do Not Need in Washington. Just another two-faced Perriello. The Republican hopefuls for the 5th district debate tonight at the Albemarle County Office Building. Check it out.

Glad to see this lawsuit is over. It would seem that inept officials are not exclusively limited to Washington.

Ken Boyd and David Brown, what's the difference? Boyd (Republican) went along silently with the big boys, Brown (Democrat) vociferously supported them. Does party politics really have anything to do with it? Maybe, Snow and Thomas ascends to the BoS and there is a rush to complete the extortion. Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts and the Dems of Cville get on the bandwagon. After all, there are elections this fall and everybody's aware that there are only family members of the principals that are supportive of this crime. Thank goodness for the Freedom of Information Act. We need it to protect ourselves from our "officials" no matter how incompetent they are.
Thanks for what has been a true public service.


Van der Linde is paying RWSA $600,000, which is not the same as saying there was no case. Still a settlement is a settlement, fight's over, everybody should move on. Move on that is, to deciding how to change the structure and leadership of the incompetent RSWA.

Good news- Peter was willing to go the distance with these thugs- they finally figured that out. They didn't have a case and knew they were doomed- making them look like total asses, rather than the half asses that they are everyday.

Will Schilling go after Boyd? No , of course not...Republicans talk out of both sides of their mouth. Tea Party upset about government trying to protect those with preeisting conditions from the insurance companies, but perfectly happy with $gazzillion$ going to Irag to tear down and rebuild a whole damn country. Here for Americans or down the pipe for some middle east country??
Oh yeah, I'm sorry - Iraq was responsible for 9/11 wink wink...and they had WMD wink wink...go Tea Party! Why don't you protect me from throwing money at the testing services that are bankrupting school systems...oh yeah " No Child Left Behind" choke

Sorry Mr.Boyd but this does place a black mark on your candidacy.Your relunctance to speak out against this lawsuit prevents any chance of getting my vote. The same applies to all the other council members as well.

Whoops, there goes the money to pay for city bonuses.

Funny. The local government using an anti-mafia statute. In this case THEY ARE THE MAFIA!

Appears to me the man admitted wrongdoing. Did the public bear the cost of disposing of his waste while he profited?

O. J. is not guilty, right?

Agreed. The Hook did our community a great public service on this one. Now please don't let go of Biscuit Run.

I think The Hook performed it's own "Freedom of Information" duty on this one! I wonder how much having all of this in the public eye kept any more shenanigans from going on! THANK YOU HAWES SPENCER!

"Congratulations to Mr. Van der Linde for putting this behind him and moving on." Unless Mr. Van der Linde has money he's find in some recycling bag, he'll be moving on to a financial institution to borrow $600k and then moving on to repay it.

Van De Linde paid because he was guilty of a lie of omisssion- He knew he should have paid and is lucky he could settle this. Public support of him was done by those who thought he was innocent of any wrong doing. A trial would have been chancy for both sides.

All the haulers who didn't pay what they owed, stole from me and all other rate payers. That theft was done with the lack of supervision of BFI/Allied who also had to pay. It continued because the RWSA didn't do there job to supervise.

The only thing that is clear is that Peter Van De Linde is better at talking to the press. I love how many here also take the official who work on the settlement to task for making this go away. Many were screaming for this lawsuit to end, it did, just not with the result that many here wanted. I have stated in past threads that Van de Linde might not be guilty but was never an innocent and that Allied was also responsible as well. This settlement is a most reasonable result of that fact.

I want to applaud those at the RWSA for getting this behind them and moving on. The RWSA does need to take some of the heat
on this because they didn't make sure that payments were coming in. On to the water plan!

lowercase mike here, we aren't the same. I don't see any mention of an admission of guilt as has been suggested, just word of a settlement. They are hardly the same thing! Congratulations to Mr. Van der Linde for putting this behind him and moving on.

Ding, Dong the witch is dead.

Congratulations and best wishes to Peter Van der linde!

It is a great day when the Government gets spanked with its own brush.

The level of incompetence of both of these boards is astounding.

Thats right... "incompetence"

Now they should hire another law firm to audit the first law firm to see why it took 350k to get this far. I would be surprized if the law firm could justify its billing.

Maybe The shilling show should file a freedom of information request.

This was a horrible case of a governmental body squeezing a private businessman until he couldn't take it any more. They got him down on his knees with no where to turn but to get out anyway he could. This in no way convinces me that Mr. Van der linde was guilty of anything, only that RSWA could destroy him, and he had to pay up or they would have put him out of business permanently. Shame on the board of RSWA for this waste of our money, and the agony they have caused Mr. Van der Linde personally.

If this fiasco doesn't finish Brown off politically too, then there is something really wrong with voters in the City.

Boyd doesn't think this hurt his candidacy at all - hey Ken, think again. You don't have a chance to get this nomination.

McGuire Woods are the thugs hired by RSWA the Authority. Waste Management is given strongly preferential rates so local companies can’t compete. Then the City contract says all trash is to be delivered to Republic.

Send out the thugs to squash any innovative competition.

Whose scam is this.

RSWA claimed a 20 million dollar suit but settled for just enough to pay off their thugs ($600,000), or the thugs got their fees and gave up a loosing suit.

No wonder the tax base of companies has fled this county. And the UVA technology center remains largely empty. Who would want to build a company in this political environment? Let the property owners pay all the taxes. And the thugs and out of state companies pocket the money.

The staff gets paid anyway.....perhaps those who brought the suit under the guise of the RSWA should actually bear the cost. But Peter knew he could win, had all the cards and the RSWA had no clue- so they basically begged him to end it all and pay some funds to make it appear as though they had won.

Long live capitalism- "what goes around comes around"

This is disgusting, and is nothing short of extortion, in my book. Mr. Van der Linde shouldn't have paid a dime. They should have paid him. Turn the crooks out !

Our new daily newspaper--kudos to the Hook; you sure scooped this story from beginning to end.

It was a shakedown, plain & simple. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall at some of the back room dealings that went on between RWSA and the so called 'councilors'.

And Americanian, no one is 'upset about government trying to protect those with "preeisting" conditions'. That is the one thing in the whole health care debate that we agree on (although I don't believe it's fair for someone to go with insurance for their whole life and then automatically be able to hop on a great plan once they get sick). What we are upset about is your glorious leader saying that the healthcare debates would be on CSPAN, legislation would be online for everyone to read for 72 hours, etc... and LYING about it. If you want to blindly follow them to hell, go ahead, but you're doing the same thing you accuse all of the 'right wing teabaggers' of doing under Bush.

Oh...and even though Bush signed "No Child Left Behind" it was Ted Kennedy's baby. EDUCATE YOURSELF!

Big Boy,I don't think you are "seeing the forest for the trees".
The tipping fees Vandelinde did not pay because he wasn't asked were nothing more than the Authority wanting to "wet their beak" from those who could do a better job for the community. The Authoritys very existance depends on suppressing outside competition. The monopoly they set up with BFI seems more of a RICO
matter to be looked into.

I hope the Hook will give us a full accounting of what the legal fees were, since the last report of $340,000 . With all the staff hours spend on this, surely, this was a wash, or actual deficit in terms of money re-couped for the taxpayers.
There is no way politicians can spin this as a good thing for the community. Someone or many need to be held to account for this terrible waste of public money and an apology needs to make to Mr. Van der Linde for what was done to him.

It seems all parties wish to cut their losses. Also, if there's talk of cutting back on RSWA services (revenue) it seems highly possible that RSWA would have to cut back on it lawyer fees and even Kurt Krueger would have a hard time not coming up with a loss. After all, it's all about money isn't it?

I see that Van der Linde is getting 5 years to pay off the $600k amount. I wonder if Mr. Krueger's law firm will similarly offer the RSWA the ability to finance their $340k+ legal bill over a 5 year period.

I'd bet anyone that the Krueger/Blank bill has hit $500,000--this action was a total loss for the community. Krueger and McGuireWoods should be fired, Blank is already out of a job. These high priced lawyers have meant nothin but trouble, and they, and Thomas L. Frederick Jr. should be replaced immediately


I updated this story with some trickling-in details:
- some legal analysis
- the total public cost of the litigation
- Duane Snow didn't know

--hawes spencer

@memee meee, usually your succinct comments encompass alot of territory and make a lot of sense at the time. So you feel that when someone has a disagreement with the government, he shouldn't mind spending hundreds of thousands of dollar "to prove his point?"
I can not believe that you are not upset that your government used the power of the law to try to bully or extort money from a private citizen whether he has it or not. How much are you willing to pay out in order to prove your point? $5 is my limit.


You should change "throw-away tickets" to "thrown away delivery tickets" in the story.

"The settlement also dissolves the controversial 1997 agreement between the RSWA and BFI " If I understand this correctly this is a huge plus for Van der Linde and why he sued RSWA in 2006, giving BFI an unfair advantage, not haveing to pay tipping fees when everyone else did . Does this mean that Waste Management and Republic will now have to pay tipping fees like everyone else--which is only fair ?

According to Peter van der Linde on the Coy Barefoot Show hosted by WINA, a two-day non-binding mediation process was used to reach this agreement The list of participants is quite interesting. Just Frederick and his attorneys, BFI and its attorneys and van der Linde and his lawyers. It was set up by a federal judge.

to Cville Eye:

Who else would you expect to attend court ordered mediation except the 3 litigants and their attorneys?

Only recently did I become aware that city residents did not have to use the RSWA haulers. I just signed up with a hauler who takes the trash to Van Der Linde's facility. And now I read in this story:

==Waste Authority officials, however, showed little interest in dissolving, having recently begun discussing getting a law to force area households and haulers to use government facilities such as the old Ivy Landfill==

Totally ludicrous! If they stop Dixon Trash from coming down my street I will put my trash in the back of my car and take it to Van Der Linde myself. I'm just sorry that Van Der Linde was bullied to the point of surrender, but at least it's over.