Lau: “I’m Appalled That Happened”, Some City Leaders Apologize, Discuss Recycling Issue

FORT SMITH (KFSM) — Some Fort Smith city leaders apologized while others voiced strong opinions on Fort Smith’s recycling controversy during the board of director’s meeting on Tuesday night (May 17).

A last-second item added to the agenda brought the recycling issue to the forefront again once again.

The board of directors gathered Tuesday to discuss whether or not to stockpile recyclables in a different portion of the landfill until a permanent solution is found.

In the end, the board decided to postpone the conversation.

But with trial lawyer, Joey McCutchen, in attendance, the discussion went further than that.

He said five members of the board received a memorandum with important information.

“This thing goes back to September 30, 2014,” McCutchen said. “There hadn’t been a contract on the recyclables since that time. (The) board of directors knew it; certain members of the city administration knew it. They’ve known it since August 2014. They’ve got a scapegoat in Mark Schlievert and that’s wrong.”

On May 10 city administrator Carl Geffken fired Schlievert, the former director of sanitation.

McCutchen, Schlievert’s lawyer, spoke at the meeting, quoting the memorandum.

“We were told recycling stopped going to recycle in October,” Geffken said. “Then, after our press release, we were notified it was different in that since October 2014, only a portion of recyclable materials were going into the landfill.”

Some members of the board took responsibility and offered apologies.

“It was the way we hid the fact that we were not recycling into the landfill,” said Keith Lau. “I’m appalled that happened and I’d like to apologize to the citizens that we did that.”

Going forward, Geffken said the board will have a presentation for a new plan on May 23.

“The May 23rd plan is the plan to restart recycling in the city.”

One member of the board says he hopes then people will hear the truth of what really happened.

“I think this has been a cover-up from the get-go and it’s time it comes out,” said George Catsavis.

Geffken responded, “It’s unfortunate when a director puts that out there in the public without coming to sit with me and get the correct information. We have been providing information. The problem has been that the information we’ve been sharing is the information we’ve been given. And until the director provides the proper info, we cannot share it with the directors.”

The meeting next Tuesday will be a public forum at the Fort Smith Convention Center. That’s when the board will get their first look at that possible permanent solution developed by Geffken.

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