Waste Authority says: Lawsuit ends when Van der Linde pays
In its first meeting since its star witness was convicted and jailed for attempted extortion related to its case, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority isn't shying away from its controversial lawsuit against recycling entrepreneur Peter van Der Linde. Despite a new public plea from a pair of citizens at its December meeting, the board gave no indication that it was backing down.
"I agree that it's a stupid lawsuit," said board member and City Councilor David Brown, noting that the lawsuit would disappear if Van der Linde would pay the approximately one million dollars the Authority contends he owes for depositing trash without paying a $16 Authority fee.
"Figure out how much trash," said Brown. "Have him pay it, and let's be done."
Earlier in the meeting, recent Charlottesville City Council candidate Bob Fenwick launched the debate by urging the Authority to quit the lawsuit, which has used RICO, the Racketeer Influenced Corruption act, to pursue Van der Linde for as much as $20 million.
"Who is going to stand up and say that this is wrong?" asked Fenwick. "Where is the Chamber of Commerce? Where is the Free Enterprise Forum?"
The director of the Free Enterprise Forum was there in the second row, but he decided to sit tight until former Charlottesville Planning Commissioner Betty Mooney stood up with a sign reading "Frederick Must Go" and urging the embattled Authority director to resign.
"I'm sure he's great as an engineer," said Mooney, damning with faint praise.
"I applaud the professionalism of Tom Frederick," said the Forum's Neil Williamson, "and I applaud the public process that brought forth the community water supply plan."
As for the lawsuit against Van der Linde, Williamson said the Forum hasn't yet decided its stand. "I think it's a fair question to ask," he said after the meeting. "It's too big an issue for us not to be paying attention."
Albemarle County Adminstrator Bob Tucker, who serves on the board of the related Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, which was the body to whom Mooney directed her Frederick-Must-Go remarks, quickly made a motion for a vote of confidence in Frederick, and all seven members of the board voted "aye."
In other action, the Water Authority board heard from three property owners, each unhappy that parts of their yards were under threat of condemnation for a large sewer pipe, the Meadowcreek Interceptor. Despite their pleas, the board voted to authorize Frederick to take the easements by condemnation.
"That allows us to file," said Frederick. "That doesn't mean we can't still settle."
The board also awarded a $10.8 construction contract to Little Falls, New Jersey-based Metra Industries for the Interceptor, a project cynically seen as enabling the construction of the Albemarle Place development but defended by the Authority as a necessary upgrade. According to an Authority memo, the low bid by Metra was literally half what the Authority was expecting to pay for the work.
–updated at 7:12am Friday with Interceptor info