EAST ST. LOUIS – Belleville lawyer Alvin Paulson has opened a class action against East St. Louis and Waste Management on behalf of landlord Edwin Sieron.
In a suit Paulson filed at U.S. District Court in East St. Louis on July 2, three Sieron companies claim the city improperly issued nuisance citations.
“The citations are given indiscriminately and force city residents to come to the city’s municipal building, costing those affected time and money,” Paulson wrote.
“This practice is a form of harassment and unduly burdens low income individuals and minorities,” he wrote.
The plaintiffs are identified as Raven Securities, Hawk Properties, and Falcon Ltd.
The suit alleges 17 counts against the city and two against Waste Management, claiming the city acts as debt collector for Waste Management.
According to the suit, the city issues citations to those on a list that Waste Management submits.
Paulson wrote that the list includes residents who do not have trash service and Waste Management customers with delinquent bills.
“No Illinois state statute requires a person to have a trash service provider,” he wrote.
Paulson proposes to represent all who received citations for failure to have trash service, estimating their number in hundreds if not thousands.
He calls on the court to determine whether the city issues citations at the behest of Waste Management and whether the city and Waste Management colluded.
He also calls on the court to determine whether plaintiffs are entitled to punitive damages and injunctive relief.
The suit alleges that the city violates federal debt collection law through false representations.
Paulson wrote the city disgraces customers by falsely representing that they committed crimes.
He wrote that Waste Management violates the same law by providing to the city a list of customers who allegedly refuse to pay debts.
In addition, the city allegedly violates state debt collection law by acting as a collection agent without a license.
The suit alleges fraud and fraudulent concealment, claiming the city knows that failure to have trash service does not violate its ordinances. It also claims slander, alleging that the city furnishes citations with malice and intent to harm plaintiffs and other class members.
In another slander count, Paulson wrote that the city also maliciously communicates false information to a credit agency.
He alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, calling the city’s conduct extreme and outrageous. He also alleges interference with a prospective business advantage, writing that plaintiffs have a reasonable expectation of return on investment through leasing homes to own.
Paulson didn’t take on the most sympathetic client in East St. Louis.
The state’s high risk insurance pool, “FAIR Plan,” ceased insuring Sieron’s properties in 2002, according to a suit that Hanover Fire and Casualty filed against Sieron in 2006.
In the suit, Hanover alleged that Sieron’s businesses had a history of losses substantially in excess of other high risk policyholders in the same geographic area.
Hanover and Sieron settled in 2007.
The suit alleged that Sieron developed a scheme to continue obtaining FAIR Plan insurance through applications that misrepresented the identities of applicants.
Hanover also alleged that FAIR Plan denied damage claims made by those applicants and rescinded their policies.
The insurer also alleged that FAIR Plan initiated litigation against Sieron and his entities, resulting in summary judgment in favor of the FAIR Plan.
It also alleged that it hired Sieron as an agent, paying him $32,000 in commissions while he forwarded more than 100 applications that contained misrepresentations.
The company fired him as agent in 2005, due to a loss ratio that exceeded 100 percent in 2004 and 2005, according to Hanover.
Hanover sued him and nine of his entities in federal court in Pennsylvania, and a judge transferred the case to the Southern District of Illinois.
Sieron’s suit against East St. Louis presents a tough test for the city’s new law firm.
City manager Deletra Hudson terminated a contract with the Hinshaw and Culbertson firm in April, and hired State Senator James Clayborne’s firm.
Clayborne, John Sabo, Michael Wagner, Heidi Eckert, and Jennifer Barbieri had left Hinshaw and Culbertson to start the firm of Clayborne, Sabo and Wagner.