Cities, County Fight Over $100-Million







For nearly thirty years, Broward’s garbage disposal was a marriage of convenience between cities and the County government.

Residents in 26 of the 31 municipalities have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to build and operate facilities for the disposal of solid waste, which the County gave away to the private contract operator.

Thankfully, there are still assets remaining.  In fact, there are tens of millions in real property and tens of millions in cash accumulated.

The agreement that formed this marriage of convenience is expiring July 2nd.  But, the County has decided it doesn’t want to divide the “marital” assets in accordance with the “pre-nuptial agreement”.

Like so many marriages that end up on the rocks, looks like this one is headed for the courts.

At stake is over $100 million in cash and property.


How We Got Here


Over the past 25 years, garbage disposal for 26 municipalities has been handled through an Inter-local Agreement (“ILA”) creating the Resource Recovery System (“RRS”), a name coined likely because of the plan to burn waste to create electricity in order to recover value.

All municipalities in the 1980s liked the idea of joining together in this marriage of convenience to handle waste, except Dania Beach, Hallandale, Parkland, Pembroke Pines, and Pompano Beach.

The RRS is presided over by the Resource Recovery Board (“RRB”), made up by designated representatives from municipalities and a representative from the County.   However, the “marriage” agreement expires on July 2, 2013.  Then, the County Commission takes over as the governing board and the existing Board and System are abolished.

The Resource Board is supposed to, by the terms of the agreement, distribute the net assets of the Recovery System – such as cash and the value of land, landfills and physical assets owned by the resource system.  Each contract municipality is supposed to get a pro rata distribution on July 2, 2013.  Some say the market value is potentially much higher than the $100,000,000 accounting value on the books.

For many cities, there are millions of dollars at stake.

Let’s be clear: the County’s own Attorney gave an opinion that the assets belong to the Resource System.

Translation:  There is no dispute, the 26 contract municipalities have a pro rata beneficial ownership interest in those assets!


Auditor Says County Not Cooperating


In order to get some answers on the true financial picture, the Resource Board brought in the City of Fort Lauderdale auditor.   The interim audit report, as well as Resource Board discussions, raised some very real concerns:  understatement of assets, overstatement of liabilities, potential misallocation of expenses and liabilities, and potentially inappropriate transfer of funds to the County.

Equally troubling, the City of Fort Lauderdale Auditor says the County is frustrating his attempts to get a clearer picture of the financials, won’t answer questions directly and won’t allow him to meet with the County’s External Auditor.   Every request for information is treated like a formal public record request.


County Takes Pre-Emptive Strikes


Nonetheless, the Resource Board voted to distribute the cash assets, obtain a valuation of the real property for distribution purposes and audit the closing finances.  However, the County refused to comply with that vote and didn’t wait for July 3rd to take more action.

One contentious issue involves dollars set aside for the closure of landfill sites… which some say still have 30 years of useful life remaining.   Along the way, residents in the contract cities have been contributing millions to a reserve fund for closure costs predicated appropriate accrual accounting for our use through July 2, 2013.

Unilaterally, the County recently took another $9,000,000 of distributable cash from the System to pump up even more the County reserve closure fund.   Then, the County put a deed restriction on the assets, something the RRB voted against recently so as not lower the potential value of some of the assets.

This “divorce” is about to become very public.


Cities To Take Action


Sometimes you need an impartial referee in a divorce … or when a business is dissolving.

With the July 2nd date fast approaching and the County taking preemptive actions contrary to the RRB decisions, Sunrise, Weston and Hollywood have voted to file a lawsuit, if necessary, to protect their share of the assets and the right to a full accounting.   Other cities are lining up next week to join the litigation.

Some in the County government have already warned the County Commission might, in retaliation, withdraw support for the County’s E-911 Consolidation funding plan.   Hard to imagine anyone would tie these two issues together or jeopardize the most important public safety improvement in decades.  Maybe that’s politics.

But, obtaining a true accounting and distributing net assets pursuant to an agreement should not turn into a nasty “divorce” full of threats and retaliation, nor is this about politics – it is about enforcing a business agreement.

Cities should stand together to protect the assets and seek what they are entitled to receive – nothing more, nothing less.

(Michael Ryan is the mayor of Sunrise. He was elected in August, 2010 and re-elected in 2012.)


26 Responses to “Cities, County Fight Over $100-Million”

  1. In The Know says:

    The county screwed up this garbage mess for 30 years. Now they believe they deserve a reward. Something is wrong here.

  2. Real Deal says:

    The county will now play the victim but the problem is that consistently the county and the cities are at odds and much more often than not it is the cities that have the stronger argument. Not true when dopey ideas like getting county out of land use was being floated around by cities. Very true when it came to 911 communications. Seems logical in this case also.

  3. Fort Lauderdale resident says:

    Here we go again, this sounds like the same games the county tried to play with 911. I wonder where Commissioner LaMarca is on this position. As Fort Lauderdale would get the largest share of the pie, I hope unlike 911 he puts the interests of Fort Lauderdale first this time.

  4. Garbage Man says:

    The Resource Recovery Board and the County’s Solid Waste and Recycling Department has been so badly mismanaged over the last 30 years that it finally collapsed upon itself. Good Riddance. The dysfunction stems from poor or misguided leadership from the County and RRB Staff. The County is acting like a child in the sandbox that refuses to share what rightfully belongs to the Cities who have paid into the system. Happy to know Ron Greenstein and his cohorts will no longer be sucking off the teet of the taxpayers of Broward continuing to give horrible advice and slinking around public meetings whispering in people’s ears, in violation of Sunshine laws.

  5. Not your typical divorce says:

    I don’t think most marriages start out with a known divorce date. If they did, you would think the parties would be carefully tracking the assets from the beginning since they know there is a split coming. I know I would be if $100M was involved. Just sayin’

  6. vivi says:

    The county hold Money all these years. The residence of City of SUNRISE deserve to get the money back.

  7. vivi says:

    As Residence of Sunrise we deserve to get the Money back from the County

  8. Mike Ryan says:

    Here is a current list of municipalities who have either passed resolutions to initiate legal action to protect their rights to fair and timely distribution of the RRS assets OR who have on the Agenda to consider:

    Sunrise – Passed Resolution 6/11
    Weston –Passed Resolution 6/17
    Hollywood – Passed Resolution 6/19
    Lauderhill – Agenda 6/24
    Fort Lauderdale – Agenda 6/24
    Cooper City – Agenda 6/25
    Lighthouse Point – Agenda 6/25
    Lauderdale By The Sea – Agenda 6/25
    Wilton Manors – Agenda 6/26
    Plantation – Agenda 6/26
    Deerfield Beach – Agenda 7/1

    Other municipalities are expected to follow.

  9. Seth Platt says:

    Additional Cities have this on their agendas this week:
    Coconut Creek
    Cooper City
    Fort Lauderdale
    Wilton Manors

    Pretty sure the list will continue to grow.

  10. Neal de Jesus' ex-pastor says:

    You expect anything less from the crummy Dems you folks keep re-electing???

  11. Just one vote says:

    All broward taxpyers paid to build the facility on 441 at I-595. We then paid for the garbage to be picked up. Twenty ++ years later and now this, Wheelabrator still owns the facility and county pulls this.

  12. Your Pal Al Lameberti says:

    Disband the County Commission. They serve NO USEFUL OR LEGAL purpose. It is simply a for profit job for a select few. All the municipalities already have local government. What does the County have? An airport (money maker), seaport (money maker), and garbage (money maker)….ALL WITH NO PUBLIC OVERSIGHT.

  13. Lovin LaMarca says:

    I love how Chip can be a part of holding back this money from those cities who deserve it and be critical of the Sheriff when he himself refuses to pay his mortgage resulting in a foreclosure lawsuit yet at the same time he gets a new jag.

  14. John Fusaro says:

    “The Resource Board is supposed to, by the terms of the agreement, distribute the net assets of the Recovery System – such as cash and the value of land, landfills and physical assets owned by the resource system.”(Ryan)Once the money is gone and distributed than what?

  15. WILL PARSONS says:

    Hey “Vivi”, take an english class if you are going to live here. “residents” not residence, knucklehead

  16. pirates dilema says:

    It’s all the taxpayers money. The county isn’t trying to stiff anybody, as long as the money is appropriated for the benefit of the taxpayers. Hey Ryan, get your hands out of my pocket and let the county return the money to the taxpayers.

  17. Come On, Man! says:

    Mike Ryan and the rest of the cities are just being greedy. THE COUNTY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAINTAINING THESE SITES LONG TERM AND BECAUSE OF ZONING REGS IT IS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO ZONE ANY NEW LAND TO BE A LANDFILL! Mayor Ryan wants all of the money to be given to the cities, which would necessitate Broward County to raise taxes to maintain these facilities. Mike Ryan’s plan for the cities to continue to tax the people of Broward $19 million for an E911 service when they aren’t even providing the service any more passed, and now he wants everyone to pay more County taxes just so the cities can get another windfall. It is time to think of someone other than yourself Mike!

  18. John Fusaro says:

    Let us assume the ILA expires and the money is distributed to the municipalities. In the future were does the money come from to close the land fills and other things the money was intended for?

  19. Go Mike Go!!!!!! says:

    I don’t trust the County to do anything in our collective best interests, but I do trust Mike Ryan and trust is very important! Keep on truckin Mayor Ryan, you’ve got my vote!!!!!

  20. Joseph Miller says:

    Mikey Ryan has no history with the RRB and probably didn’t even write this article. He had Jamie Cole write it, who is going to sue the county and try to rake in mega bucks in fees(our tax dollars) the same Jamie Cole who did the “legal study” for the RRB, which Ryan leaves out of “his” article. Now Jamie Cole has convinced the cities that they can get a windfall from the RRB money based on the opinion of Jamie Cole. Ryan has been duped and is a pawn in this. Doesn’t even have the smarts to know it. Don’t trust him. The only thing he cares about is his political future.

  21. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    Wow Bertha Henry all these cities getting ready to sue you huh. My city I heard is joining the band wagon. Let’s roll. (note to Bertha- my your lesbian cohorts are causing quite the chaos @ “city hall”. Please let the” cohorts” know I’m watching them.(never a good thing)…….

  22. John Fusaro says:

    Mike does his home work before writing his articles. He is very trust worthy and has our backs.

  23. Rico Petrocelli says:

    The city of Plantation voted to go along with the other cities to recover their share of the monies from the county. They (council) were told by the Mayor there would be a cap on it. The attorney is charging $165 per hour, and the fee will be split by how many cities are involved (10 cities divided by 10 =$16.50 per city per hour)

    Councilwoman Stoner smartly asked that our city attorney Lunny reduce his fee for just reviewing the emails from the lead attorney, let’s see how that turns out.

    Millions are at stake, and if the fee is evenly divided among the total cities involved, I don’t see a windfall or a major loss for any city, although recovery would be a windfall for all the cities.

    Rico Petrocelli
    Former Councilman
    City of Plantation

  24. Rico Petrocelli says:

    Sorry,Don’t see a major windfall for the attorney @ $165 per hour, the cities, yes…


  25. Richard J Kaplan says:

    As announced by Mayor Dan Stermer, 11 cities have filed suit against Broward County, with more cities expected to take up this issue. This represents more than 50% of the population of the county.

    The cities are, Hollywood, Sunrise, Plantation, Tamarac, Weston, Ft. Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Lighthouse Point, Davie, and Coconut Creek.

  26. just wondering says:

    Gosh –
    the lawyers are going to make a killing!