3rd suit filed in fight over trash service

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A third lawsuit has been filed in Gwinnett County's yearlong fight over trash service.

This time, Waste Industries has sued Gwinnett County in federal court, in an attempt to stop a purported renewed effort to grant exclusive franchise rights as a settlement to the previous two cases.

While lawyers have been meeting about a settlement in the previous case, which resulted in a late 2008 injunction, throwing out a plan to choose one vendor per district for residents to use for trash hauling service, the details of the settlement negotiations have not been made public.

In the lawsuit, filed Dec. 30, attorney James J. Thomas II writes that there is "information and belief" that exclusive franchises will be chosen again.

"As the latest prospective victim of this scheming by the County, Waste Industries hereby applies to this Court to protect it against the County's continuing illegal campaign to implement an illegal and unconstitutional solid waste hauling program, this time with the approval of the Gwinnett County Court."

Chairman Charles Bannister declined to comment on the rumored settlement.

"We're still in the process of doing what the first judge asked us to do," he said. "Any other litigation I cannot comment on."

County Administrator Glenn Stephens said the county was aware of the lawsuit, but it had not been served.

"The new lawsuit is currently under review by our law department," he said.

Waste Industries' attorney objected last month, when county officials approved rights for haulers to continue their work for three months in 2010, as opposed to the normal term of one year. The attorney asks for a year term in the suit.

Based in North Carolina, the company has been doing business in Gwinnett County for 14 years, the lawsuit said. It services about 26,000 residential customers in the county.