Trucker in fight for the long haul: vows appeal of ruling favoring city

The city of Seattle did nothing wrong when it banned small waste haulers from competing for a share of the lucrative market in construction debris, a judge has ruled.

But the decision this week by King County Superior Court Judge Douglas McBroom won't be the last word in a case that questions whether Seattle did the right thing when it gave the business exclusively to two industry heavyweights with strong ties to City Hall.

Lawyers for Joe Ventenbergs, the owner of a trucking company that was frozen out of the construction-waste business, said they planned to appeal the decision.

Ventenbergs said he was prepared for a long fight.

"They warned me it was a tough case and that this would probably be the outcome," he said. "I will keep going all the way to the state Supreme Court."

The dispute stems from a decision by the city's Public Utilities Department in 2001 to hire Rabanco and Waste Management to handle commercial garbage from stores, businesses, and apartments. The companies already collect the city's residential garbage

The new commercial-waste contract — which amounted to an extra $18 million a year in business — also covered construction waste, which usually entails dropping off a large container at the work site and then returning to pick it up when it is full.

But an oversight in the city regulations left open the question of whether small haulers such as Ventenbergs' Kendall Trucking could continue to compete for business. Under pressure from Rabanco, the city passed an ordinance in 2002 that effectively excluded independent haulers from the market.

Ventenbergs and one of his customers, contractor Ron Haider, sued the city in May to overturn the ordinance.

In a packed courtroom last month, their lawyer, Bill Maurer, argued that the city violated the state constitution because it didn't have a valid public purpose for preventing small companies from competing against Rabanco and Waste Management.

But McBroom disagreed.

The judged sided with the city's attorney, Will Patton, who argued that garbage collection was a basic municipal service that involved public health and welfare. McBroom concluded that Seattle had the power to hire specific companies to perform the work without a public bidding process.

The judge also said that Ventenbergs had violated state law even before the city took over commercial garbage collection because his company lacked the proper waste-hauling certificate from the state.

J. Martin McOmber: 206-464-2022 or