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Corruption in the County's Waste Management Authority?

An employee of the agency alleges her job is in jeopardy because she 'blew the whistle' on her boss for awarding big contracts to and then overpaying friends' companies.

State Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) is calling for an investigation into possible corruption in the South Bayside Waste Management Authority.

Cathy Hidalgo, a female employee of the agency, is alleging that she has been told her position is "being eliminated," and that she believes it is because she blew the whistle on the agency's executive director, Kevin McCarthy, for "arranging" that pricey contracts went to friends' companies, Hill's camp said in a press release issued late Wednesday.

In a letter to Jim Porter, chairman of the agency made up of San Mateo County cities, Hill asked the board – which is scheduled to hold a budget meeting Thursday night – to delay action on eliminating Cathy Hidalgo’s position “pending a full review, hearing and investigation of the serious allegations” she made in a story published Wednesday in the San Mateo Daily Journal.

Hidalgo, a recycling coordinator for the agency, which is also known as "Rethink Waste," alleged that she is being retaliated against because she questioned consulting contracts awarded to a close friend of McCarthy's.

She contends a $200,000 payment made to the consultant, in violation of the agency’s purchasing policy, should have been for $100,000. Hidalgo said she met with McCarthy and also questioned him about contracts he arranged for another close friend.

Hidalgo, who has requested an opportunity to speak directly to the board at Thursday’s meeting, alleged that she is being retaliated against in violation of state law that protects whistleblowers.

Hill said in his letter - a copy of which is attached to this article in the photos section- that, “as a former member of the San Mateo Board of Supervisors, I am familiar with previous concerns that have been raised about the contract awarding process of the South Bayside Waste Management Authority.”

The assemblyman also noted in his press release that a San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury report issued in 2009 contained a series of damning findings and conclusions about the agency’s contracting process, as well as recommendations.

The grand jury report, entitled ”TRASHTALK: Rethinking the Waste Management RFP Process By the Waste Management Authority," which is also attached to this article, was critical of the SBWMA’s awarding of two garbage-related contracts and chided the authority for not following its stated goal to “conduct the requests for proposal process with integrity and transparency.”

In his letter to Porter, Hill said: “Accountability is the hallmark of good government, which is why, as a member of the Board of Supervisors, I proposed that the 12 members of the authority’s Board of Directors should be comprised of locally-elected officials who are accountable to the public.”

Hill added, “the most recent allegations have re-affirmed my belief that, to remove the stench of favoritism in the SBWMA contracting process and increase accountability, we need to consider – at the local and state levels – legislating that board members be elected officials.”

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