The yearlong legal battle over the status of Chula Vista city councilman Steve Miesen, who also happens to be a top executive with the city’s trash-pickup provider, Republic Services, shows no signs of abating soon. Miesen was appointed by the city council in January 2015 to serve out the final two years of the term of Mary Salas following her election as mayor. That brought a yet-to-be resolved lawsuit by resident Chris Shilling alleging that Miesen got the council seat through secret skullduggery. Further controversy ensued regarding whether the council had violated the California Political Reform Act, which the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission said it hadn’t. Now comes the commission again, this time with an opinion barring Miesen from voting on permits for a fancy new residential and commercial complex at Third & K. The five-story Vista Del Mar project, designed by Studio E architect John Sheehan for developer Hamid Mani, is controversial among some residents for its size and proximity to a single-family neighborhood.
The state’s political watchdog says lucrative trash generation by new residents is the issue with Miesen. “As the Division Manager [for Republic], the Councilmember is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations, maximizing productivity, optimizing profitability, approving expenses, and managing the budget, among other responsibilities,” says a November 12 letter to the city from commission chief counsel Hyla P. Wagner. “The Councilmember receives a salary from Republic for serving as a Division Manager, and in addition to his salary, he is also eligible for a performance bonus from Republic. The performance bonus may be up to 25% of [Miesen’s] salary and is determined based on several weighted components.”
The letter describes the Vista Del Mar development as “a mixed-use project consisting of 80 residential condominium units, a common area, commercial space, and parking,” adding that “Republic would earn $20,172 in additional annual revenue” hauling away newly created trash. Thus, opines Wagner, if the city council votes to approve the project, Miesen “will be more likely to receive a higher performance bonus from Republic based on that additional revenue.” As a result, the opinion concludes, Miesen should be prohibited “from taking part in the decision on whether to approve the development because the decision will have a reasonably foreseeable material financial effect on his interest in Republic.”