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Wagner's 'bullying' the focus of billboards in central Pennsylvania

Written by Sam Ruland/The York Daily Record | Sep 16, 2018 9:29 PM
Scott Wagner closeup.JPG

Former state Sen. Scott Wagner speaks with the media following his speech to the Rotary Club of York at the Country Club of York on Wednesday, September 12, 2018. (Ty Lohr/The York Daily Record)

There's no such thing as bad publicity... at least that's how the saying goes. 

So if that's the case, then maybe Scott Wagner was happy to see his face appear on a new billboard that, according to reports from PennLive, went up in the Harrisburg area on Tuesday.

The billboard reads: "Scott Wagner's Penn Waste sued 6,979 Pennsylvanians. Learn why." The website, Pennwastealert.com, is then listed across the bottom.

The following statements appears on the website:

  • "Penn Waste has a track record of using strong-arm tactics to win contracts and bully customers."
  • "Penn Waste has been repeatedly cited for violating state environmental regulations."
  • "Will these result in unnecessary legal risk for municipalities and individuals who contract with Penn Waste?"

This isn't the first time that the Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate has been condemned for the way he handles business at Penn Waste. The company has been scrutinized in the past for filing lawsuits against customers who don't pay their bills.

Back in April, the York Daily Record reported an instance where a member of the York County Sheriff's office showed up at a family's residence, taking inventory of their property to eventually put up for sale. It was because of their unpaid trash bill to Penn Waste, which was about $160. 

Analysis from the Daily Record showed that this legal tactic is often used by Penn Waste. It's called filing a writ of execution on personal property.

As of April, Penn Waste has used this legal process at least 263 times in cases that were started since the beginning of 2016. And most of the bills owed are between $150 and $250.

"This is not a normal business tactic," executive director of PA Spotlight Eric Russo wrote in a column published in May. "In fact, according to the investigation, no other garbage removal company uses these practices in the operating area."

PA Spotlight, a Democratic-leaning advocacy group, is paying for the billboards. And they told PennLive that four more billboards are set to go up later this week in York and Dauphin counties.

Wagner's campaign discredited the group's claims of Penn Waste violating state environmental regulations.

"Independent fact checkers have noted that Scott's record of regulatory compliance is in accordance with industry averages," Wagner's campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo wrote in a statement. "Penn Waste is required by their contracts with municipalities to continue to make collections regardless of whether the company receives timely payment, so lawsuits are sometimes necessary in order to make sure customers pay their bills." 

In a statement to the York Daily Record back in April, Amanda Davidson, director of marketing for Penn Waste, said the company bills more than 100,000 customers across southcentral Pennsylvania.

The business gives people multiple opportunities before and after legal action is initiated to set up a payment plan. A writ of execution is only filed in "extreme cases." At the point of a sheriff's sale, a person has been given about nine months to satisfy his or her obligations, she said.

"Scott has always said that government should never spend more money than it takes in and that's how his business runs as well," Romeo said. 

When Wagner was running for the senatorial seat back in 2014, a political flier was distributed with Clara Palmer calling him a "bully."

Penn Waste sued Palmer, of Springettsbury Township, over unpaid trash bills, the York Daily Record reported in 2004. She was 84 years old at the time.

And when asked about that flier, Wagner didn't seem to be worried about it. He said people know that he is in business, and if he didn't collect fees, he'd be out of business. This flier is going to work in reverse, he said.

"It's helping me," Wagner said after a York Township meeting in 2014.

Wagner did secure that 28th Senatorial seat. It's his fate as Pennsylvania's next governor that still has yet to be decided. 

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record.

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