Trash being collected but questions remain

Uncollected trash sits by the curb Thursday on Union Street in Benton Harbor. Residents said the trash is usually picked up in that area on Wednesday. Wecycle Industrial Sanitation owner Robert Edwards says the $39,000 monthly payment from the city was given to a former employee, leaving him with no money to pay for fuel and the landfill fees.

BENTON HARBOR — Wecycle Industrial Sanitation LLC is once again picking up trash in Benton Harbor, but turmoil over who owns the company continues.

Robert Edwards of Southfield, one of the three people who claim ownership, said he was able to start picking up trash Tuesday morning once he received money from the city to pay for fuel and landfill fees. 

Also claiming ownership are Virginia Huddleston of Benton Harbor and her brother, Jewell Allen of Champaign, Ill. They are siblings of Benton Harbor city Commissioner MaryAlice Adams.

St. Joseph attorney John Dewane, who represents Huddleston and Allen, said in an email sent to The Herald-Palladium on Wednesday that: “A lawsuit regarding corporate governance has not yet been filed because the garbage is now being collected and the members of the LLC are attempting (to) resolve the issues without Court intervention.”

When Wecycle was awarded the trash contract in 2017, all three of them were listed as owners. But Edwards and his manager, Willie “Curlie” Williams, said last week that Edwards became the sole owner because he was the only one putting money into the company. They said Huddleston initially worked for the company but was fired more than a year ago. They didn’t say why. They said Allen works as a driver when he is in town.

They said the monthly check from the city has been given to Edwards until a couple of weeks ago, when it was given to Huddleston. 

Commissioner Duane Seats said Monday that the $39,000 payment was deposited into a new bank account created by Huddleston at the direction of Interim City Manager Ellis Mitchell, and over the objections of city staff.

City commissioners voted Monday to advance Edwards November’s payment so he could resume garbage collection.

At Monday’s meeting, Huddleston gave commissioners a packet of information that she said would explain what’s going on. 

The paperwork, obtained by The Herald-Palladium, shows that on Oct. 17, 2017, Edwards, Huddleston and Allen signed a resolution authorizing Edwards to sign with the city, on behalf of the LLC, “all documents necessary to implement the agreement.”

In addition, the paperwork contains text of an email sent Monday from Dewane to Livonia attorney Christopher Schultz, who is representing Edwards, saying in part: “Mr. Edwards has $50,000 sitting at risk as a cash bond and if he continues to be reticent will likely lose all or a substantial portion.” 

Dewane, a retired Berrien County judge, said in the email that Edwards and his clients were to meet in his office on Tuesday morning to try to resolve their differences.

Dewane on Wednesday did not say how the meeting went.

Edwards declined to say how the meeting went and said he’s still in negotiations.

Huddleston didn’t respond to attempts to reach her for comment.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege