One day in January 2009, a neighbor on Del Haven Drive asked Ken MacNamee a casual question.
“Do you realize we pay more for trash pickup than people on the other side of the Intracoastal?”
That can’t be, MacNamee thought. But he decided to investigate.
His monthly charge was $23.60. On the mainland, it was $13.50.
MacNamee kept investigating, and a year later, the Delray Beach City Commission has unanimously approved a vote of “no confidence” in City Manager David Harden and Finance Director Joe Safford, and a nine-member Financial Review Board is exploring MacNamee’s claim that Waste Management Inc. has overbilled the city about $500,000 over several years while underpaying $52,989 in commercial franchise fees.
“I have a file of work here that proves it,” MacNamee says, plopping on his kitchen table an Office Depot file-storage box filled with printouts, contracts, utility bills and letters to and from city and county officials.
“I’m an anal-retentive,” he announces without apology. “I’m a tough-sell. I’m a nonbeliever. I’m from Missouri — show me.”
Actually, he’s from Philadelphia, a retired certified public accountant and the former chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Coral Gables Federal Savings & Loan.
At 59, he is the father of two grown children, and shares the house on Del Haven Drive with his wife, Mary, and a friendly poodle name Dutch. When not wading into the minutiae of garbage pickup, he’s a volunteer referee at high school lacrosse, basketball and soccer games.
When he asked about his pickup charge, MacNamee says, he was told the $10.10 discrepancy was because residents in coastal Delray Beach get rear-door pickup service.
“Most of us didn’t know we were entitled to that,” he says. MacNamee told all his neighbors to stop bringing their garbage to the curb.
Then he asked how the city verified the number of rear-door pickups Waste Management was billing.
“We don’t,” he says he was told.
He kept digging, and the Office Depot box kept filling.
“This has nothing to do with my ten bucks a month,” MacNamee insists. “It’s that I live in a city that’s been taken to the cleaners. This city is looking out for Waste Management’s interests and not the residents’.”
He is quick, however, to distinguish between the bureaucracy and the men on the trucks.
“The guys who pick the stuff up are good workers,” he says. “My problem is with management, the guys we used to call the suits.”
He is not, he insists, planning on running for office, and considers the contents of that Office Depot box public record.
“They can come here and check my work any time,” he says. “I’m a passionate person. I don’t do things half-baked. I want to go to sleep tonight knowing I got something done. It’s not personal, I just want to see the city run properly.”
But now that his work has inspired an official review board, MacNamee is cautious.
“I’m not a firm believer in big committees unless you clearly define the duties of each committee member,” he says. “If you’re just going to sit around talking in generalities and platitudes, that’s not how work gets done.”
He ponders the Office Depot box.
“I’m a little over halfway done,” he says. “I got a lot of work to do yet.”