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October 1, 2014

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Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice …

Republic Services got commissioner to pay for free service — the first time

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Steve Marcus

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani was charged $30 by Republic Services for trash-dumping that is supposed to be free.

Republic Services charged a resident $30 for a service that’s supposed to be free, then tried to justify it by citing a law that doesn’t exist.

Those are big no-nos under Republic’s contract with Clark County. The resident knew this because she is County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani.

She’s remodeling her kitchen and brought a pickup truck full of debris to Republic’s Cheyenne Transfer Station in North Las Vegas, where garbage trucks dump their loads before tractor-trailers deliver them to the Apex landfill 20 miles north of town. County code says any resident of a single-family home can dump waste from home at any transfer station for free, just by showing a current Republic Services bill and photo identification.

But when Giunchigliani pulled up, she was told she had to take the load to Apex or pay $30 to dump it at the transfer station.

Giunchigliani, familiar as she is with the county code, didn’t recall changing the law. She insisted she shouldn’t be charged.

But a Republic worker told her a new policy had been implemented — that day, in fact — and handed her a notice that cited county Ordinance 9.04.215.

Giunchigliani paid the fee, but later called county staff and asked them to look into the purported new policy.

Turns out, county Ordinance 9.04.215 doesn’t exist. There was a provision by that number in 2005 that said only that Republic customers could dump their waste for free.

Giunchigliani was incredulous that Republic Services was forging county policy.

“You can’t just make stuff up,” she said later.

Mike Harwell, the county’s franchise manager, called Republic Area President Bob Coyle about the problem last Friday. Coyle said he hadn’t ordered any policy changes and would take care of it.

Well ...

Giunchigliani took another truck full of waste to the transfer station Tuesday. And — yep — the attendant tried to charge her. This time she refused to pay.

“It was almost funny,” she said. “It was like, oh my gosh, somebody’s not communicating here.”

After her protest, the attendant walked away and returned with an invoice for $0, “per Brad.”

Good call, Brad.

Giunchigliani wonders who else might have been wrongly charged.

Republic’s Coyle admitted Thursday that the company had shot itself in the foot.

“I have no defense,” he said of his employees’ scheme. “Yes, it’s embarrassing. It would have been embarrassing even if someone else reported it.”

He said an overly zealous supervisor at the transfer station was trying to boost the bottom line.

“One of the supervisors ... decided fuel was going up so much that we would be better off as an organization to have people take heavy loads out to the landfill,” Coyle said.

He said he didn’t know anything about it until Harwell called him last week. He sent an e-mail to transfer station managers Tuesday, but they apparently didn’t get the message before all-the-wiser Giunchigliani showed up the second time.

Coyle said he didn’t halt the practice earlier because he was waiting to get more details from the county about the first incident.

Republic will refund the money to the commissioner and any other residents who might have been improperly charged, Coyle said. He said Republic has no way to tell how many of its 505,000 residential customers that might be.

At the request of county officials, the company is setting up a phone number that customers can call if they think they should get a refund. The company also agreed to take out an advertisement in the Review-Journal to notify customers.

Coyle said his general managers have assured him they are no longer charging the fee.

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