Small firm sues city over hauling rules

The Seattle City Council passed an ordinance last year that nearly put Joe Ventenbergs out of business. Yesterday, he sued the city and other agencies to try to get the rule overturned.

The law makes it illegal for small haulers to remove construction debris in large waste containers. That job now can be done only by Rabanco and Waste Management, the two companies the city has a contract with.

Ventenbergs, who runs Kendall Trucking, and contractor Ron Haider filed the suit saying the law creates a monopoly that's been blessed by the city and freezes small entrepreneurs out of the business.

Ventenbergs says he lost half his business because the law changed. Haider, who used Ventenbergs' services for his construction company, says the law forces him to pay the higher costs of the two bigger waste removers.

"I'm not for monopolies," Haider said. "(The city) is just adding a little bit bigger piece to their pie."

The suit was filed against the city, Seattle Public Utilities and its director, Chuck Clarke, who say they proposed the change to make the law agree with the city's contracts with Rabanco and Waste Management.

"We'd like to be kind to small-business people, but in fact we have a contract that's consistent with state law, and that ordinance simply brought the city law in compliance with the contract and the state law that precedes it," City Councilwoman Margaret Pageler said. "If the courts want to construe it in a different way, that's what courts are for."

The suit was filed by the Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm that specializes in rights for small-business owners. The Washington, D.C.-based group opened its Washington state branch this year. The suit against Seattle is its first in this state.

Lisa Heyamoto: 206-464-2149 or