Board members express confidence in recycling firm
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Three members of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority say they have no reservations about the authorities deal with West Virginia Recycling Services, despite the recent resignation of one board member over the agreement.
In a resignation letter filed last week, Greg Sayre cited questionable business practices performed by George Hunyadi, owner of West Virginia Recycling Services.
Hunyadi's company inked a deal with the Solid Waste Authority to run the Slack Street recycling center in December. The building was shuttered last spring after inspectors found structural issues and combustible dust inside.
Sayre, a registered lobbyist who represents for-profit recycling companies, was not permitted to vote or discuss the agreement because of a conflict of interest.
He claimed Hunyadi's company wasn't registered to do business in West Virginia and was not paying into the state workers' compensation and unemployment insurance programs. He said he recently paid for an Internet background check on Hunyadi that turned up "red flags."
He also claimed the building is still unsafe for workers.
When reached for comment, other board members came to Hunyadi's defense.
"I feel that the community needs to support George," said Kay Summers, authority board president. "He has great ideas, and in the end I think this will be very beneficial to the community."
Rod Watkins said Hunyadi was current on workers' comp payments as of March 1.
"As far as I know, everything has been set up properly," Watkins said. "I'm not too concerned about it."
Charleston City Councilwoman Kasey Russell, who also serves on the authority's board, expressed disbelief that Sayre, a man who represents private recyclers in the state, would oppose Hunyadi's efforts.
"We should all be doing whatever we can to make this work for the community," she said. "Trying to dig up dirt just isn't positive."
Sayre said he was trying to make board members aware of problems and called the situation "a travesty."
Sayre claimed Hunyadi was paying workers at Slack Street with checks from Innovative Organics, an Ohio-based company Hunyadi also owns.
"These comments were made to wake the authority up," Sayre said. "They need to be on their toes and watch this guy."
Sayre said it wasn't until he broached the subject that Hunyadi acknowledged not paying for workers' comp.
Hunyadi claimed that he was not experienced in business in West Virginia and that he was thankful to Sayre for pointing out his oversights.
He said Sayre has a vendetta against him.
"I think he is certainly working to damage my credibility," Hunyadi said. "I'm not hiding from anything."
Hunyadi added that he was paying employees out of an Innovative Organics checking account, but said that "wasn't against the law."
Hunyadi acknowledged the facility needs some work, but said he is waiting for warmer weather to begin improvements to the 100-year-old structure.
"When we get some nice weather I can get some contractors in there and fix a whole bunch of stuff," he said.
He said he works in the building himself and that it isn't unsafe for workers.
"I'm not going to do anything to put myself, or my employees, in danger," he said.
The roof is the only major structural issue but it isn't ready to cave in, he said. The state of the roof is more of an inconvenience than anything, he said.
"There are holes in the roof, so water leaks into the building, but that's it," he said.
Watkins agreed, saying Hunyadi is not operating heavy equipment inside. Watkins was told by the Charleston building commissioner and fire chief that the building was structurally sound except for the roof.
He added that the combustible dust would only become an issue when Hunyadi begins to process office paper, which he currently isn't doing.
"He'll have to address the ventilation in that building before long, but I'm confident he'll do that," Watkins said.
Sayre pointed to an engineering report from last year that showed the building was unsafe.
Russell also said she believes Hunyadi will provide a safe work environment for his employees.
Russell and Watkins both said they were surprised by Sayre's abrupt resignation. Sumemrs said she saw it coming.
"I knew he was unhappy with the direction we were taking," she said. "He was opposed to this from the start."
Hunyadi believes Sayre was opposed to him taking over the center from the beginning, pointing out that one of his clients, West Virginia Cashin Recyclables, filed a lawsuit against him the day after he signed the lease with the authority.
The company sued West Virginia Recycling Services based on name infringement.
The lawsuit is still pending before Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Carrie Webster.
Hunyadi does not believe the name of his company will become an issue.
"The Secretary of State reviewed the name when I filed with the office and said it was OK," he said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection appointed Sayre to the board for a four-year term in 2009. His term was slated to end on in June, DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said.
The state agency is asking any person interested in serving on the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority to contact the office at 304-926-0440. The agency will likely appoint someone to the seat at the beginning of July, she said.
Cosco also said the DEP had no prior knowledge of Sayre's impending resignation.