The mayoral race can wait. For now, Sidney Torres IV is busy trying to stop another trash firm from doing a dirty deed on his company's French Quarter garbage bins.
An attorney for Torres' company, IV Waste, sent a cease-and-desist letter to the city on Monday, armed with a photo and three security videos showing employees of Ramelli Waste, a city trash subcontractor, dumping garbage from their bins into his. IV Waste collects garbage from individual businesses.
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Torres, who famously launched a GPS-based police patrol in the French Quarter and has achieved reality-TV stardom with his new CNBC show "The Deed," got to sleuthing when his customers began complaining about garbage filling their bins after Torres' crews had emptied them.
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One of the videos shows a garbage man, wearing a Ramelli shirt, cramming trash into an IV Waste bin in the dark as a pickup truck idles in the background. The other videos show similar dumping.
Torres said he suspects, based on complaints, that his bins have been stuffed with someone else's trash for a few months.
"The videos show that it's clearly not just a one-time incident," Torres said.
"It's multiple nights, different individuals, with a supervisor's truck and a garbage truck witnessing it," Torres said. "It doesn't make sense. It's more work to run in front of the truck, lift up a lid and dump it in another can than to throw it in the truck."
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Ramelli is a subcontractor for Empire Services, which holds the contract to collect trash in the French Quarter and Downtown Development District — a contract Torres used to hold.
"The city is working with its contractor, Empire Services, to investigate this incident involving Empire’s subcontractor, Ramelli Waste. Following a thorough investigation, we will take any necessary corrective actions," Erin Burns, a city spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Bob Ramelli, owner of the trash firm, downplayed the incidents on Tuesday. He blamed a single "hopper" who Ramelli said has been canned.
"One of my guys put some garbage in his can and we terminated him. He didn't give us an answer; he said he just did it," Ramelli said.
Ramelli disputed Torres' contention that a supervisor's truck trailed the garbage man in the video. He said the truck seen in one of the videos wasn't his.
"It wasn't condoned by us at all. You're talking about pennies' worth of garbage dumped in the other can," he said. "Why would I even worry about pennies' worth of garbage?"
Last year, Ramelli lost out in a bid to be one of two firms hired to collect trash in most of the city. Richard's Disposal and Metro Services Group retained those contracts, worth $167 million over seven years. Empire Services has the contract for the French Quarter and Central Business District
Charlie Lusco, owner and president of Empire Services, described the dumping as "extremely disappointing" and said his firm never directed it.
"I believe the videos reflect the actions of an apathetic Ramelli Waste employee rather than a conspiracy against any particular company or individual," Lusco said in a statement.
"Sidney Torres and I have always had a positive working relationship throughout the years, and Empire would have no interest in conducting malicious activities against IV Waste or any of the other trash collection vendors in the French Quarter."
Torres, who has openly flirted with a run this year for mayor, made his mark on French Quarter trash collection after Hurricane Katrina as the owner of SDT Waste and Debris Services, outfitting his trucks with GPS and spreading a lemony scent through the city's historic core.
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He sold the company in 2011 and went on to redevelop a resort in the Bahamas before launching an off-duty police patrol dubbed the French Quarter Task Force in 2015. He returned to the trash business last year.
His new firm caters to restaurants, hotels and other businesses.
Torres said he is urging other French Quarter businesses to check their video footage and will seek reimbursement to his customers for add-on charges from the extra trash.