John Gary's sense of smell County executive's response to trash scandal sent right message.

November 04, 1996

JOHN G. GARY acted decisively and correctly when he pulled the garbage hauling contracts that were awarded to companies owned by relatives of Michael A. Gunther. Mr. Gunther was the trash collector indicted two weeks ago for alleged participation in a $5 million bribery scheme at the Anne Arundel County landfill in Millersville.

Mr. Gary, the county executive, made it clear that family-owned companies associated with a business that has been charged with shortchanging taxpayers cannot expect to hold a contract with the county.

When a grand jury indicted Mr. Gunther and Don Warrener, another hauler, along with a former landfill scale operator, the county immediately canceled the haulers' contracts.

The two men were accused of bribing then-county employee Jennifer Allison to record lower weights when they came to empty their trash-laden trucks at the landfill. The scheme allegedly cost the county $5 million in lost revenue over five years.

The Sun's Scott Wilson dug up the fact that within 24 hours, two of the hauling contracts, worth about $218,000, were awarded to a company owned by Mr. Gunther's younger brother.

He used two trucks and employees from his brother's companies to service the routes. A third contract, worth about $89,000, was awarded to a company owned by a Gunther cousin. County purchasing officials said they chose these companies because others they contacted could not take on the added routes.

When the relationship of the two hauling companies to Michael Gunther was brought to Mr. Gary's attention, he acted swiftly to rescind the contracts.

While lower-level bureaucrats worried that pulling contracts was unfair, Mr. Gary insisted that they do so. Instead of finding an agent among past bidders, the county will rebid the contracts.

Mr. Gary's response sent the right message: County government will not transact business with companies and their associated entities that are accused of cheating the public.

If government is to be free of corruption, there can be no tolerance of even the slightest smell of taint. In this instance, Mr. Gary's nose was keen enough to pick up the bad odor wafting from these garbage deals.

Pub Date: 11/04/96

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