By Jim Newell
and CJ Carnacchio
Oxford Leader Editor
The Michigan Attorney General’s office is investigating Odd Job Disposal, Inc. after three area residents submitted formal complaints against the embattled garbage hauler.
“Two of the complaints alleged their contracted services weren’t rendered and the other is for failure to refund the consumer after the company no longer serviced their area,” said Kelly Rossman-McKinney, communications director with Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office.
One of the complaints was from a Leonard resident and two were made by Orion Township residents. In all three complaints, the former Odd Job customers say their garbage wasn’t picked up and they were never issued refunds for lack of services.
For months, Odd Job customers have complained that the company was not picking up their garbage, recycling and yard waste, leaving the refuse curbside for weeks, or even months, at a time. And when residents contacted Odd Job to complain, they never got a response.
“We are investigating the company now in anticipation of a lawsuit and expect action within the next few weeks,” Rossman-McKinney said. “Although the business’s customers are covered in any settlement, our ability to identify them is based on the record-keeping of Odd Job Disposal. With that said we encourage every customer of the company to file an online complaint with us at www.mi.gov/agcomplaints.”
Assistant Attorney General Darrin F. Fowler, of the Corporate Oversight Division, sent a letter to Tom Christensen, co-owner of Odd Job Disposal, Inc., dated May 7 requesting a “discussion” on May 9.
The attorney general’s Corporate Oversight Division is responsible for bringing enforcement actions un the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.
“That Act is violated when a person or company fails to provide a customer with promised benefits,” Fowler wrote. “When a company cannot fulfill obligations for which it has collected money, it must make refunds to consumers.”
The letter states that the “Attorney General has authority to both conduct formal investigations and to bring lawsuits under this Act.”
Fowler also urged Christensen and Odd Job to “use this occasion to open a dialogue about the company’s future plans, both in terms of service and refunds, where appropriate.”
The Lake Orion Review and Oxford Leader could not reach Odd Job representatives for comment after repeated phone calls.
Odd Job Disposal, which went out of business last week, has removed its website and a message on the answering machine says the company had to close “due to circumstances beyond our control.”
During the May 9 phone meeting with Fowler, Christensen did not have an attorney involved in the conversation and confirmed that they were going out of business.
Rossman-McKinney also confirmed that Christensen said, “They are working to reimburse customers to the extent possible.”
“There are some customers whose checks they have that they have not cashed and we have encouraged them to return those checks rather than not (cash them),” Rossman-McKinney said. “We made it clear to the owner that he can expect that we will be filing a lawsuit against the company to protect customers. Just because a business owner says I’m working on liquidating the business and I’ll pay my customers back doesn’t mean they will.”
During the meeting, Christensen did not say the company had, or was planning, to file for bankruptcy, nor that he was working with an attorney on winding up his business, but did say that “someone” had given him some guidance on the priority he should give different creditors,” Rossman-MCKinney said.
“We have looked for a bankruptcy filing for Odd Job Disposal in the Eastern District and do not see one,” she said.
The Orion Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously in March not to renew the Oxford-based garbage hauler’s permit to operate in the township, effective April 1.
Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett acknowledged that Odd Job had put up a Facebook post last week blaming him and the township for their problems. That post was quickly removed.
“Blaming Orion Township for the demise of Odd Job is like blaming the cook on the Titanic for the sinking of the Titanic,” he said. “I feel bad for them, but all we tried to do was help. That is 100 percent accurate. This confirms we made the right decision. Honestly, I feel bad that a local company went out of business and their employees lost their jobs.
“The reason that we did not renew their permit is because they would not provide us any answers to any of our questions. We tried to work with them but they wouldn’t give us any answers. We chased them for 12 weeks for answers. We literally had to use process servers to make sure they were getting our letters.”
Orion Township had asked Odd Job co-owner Aaron Walter to provide: the number of Orion Township customers (households) served by Odd Job; a reliable contact name/number who would answer/address concerns/complaints; a plan by the Feb. 25 for turning things around; and a guarantee that customers who canceled their services would get, at least, partial refunds.
“We never ever, ever got a plan from them (or a reliable contact),” Barnett said.
“It’s frustrating for me to see that they’re blaming us. At the end of the day, in my opinion, they have stolen from our residents – and now, Oxford residents,” Barnett said. “We would absolutely encourage residents to reach out to the attorney general (to file a complaint). Odd Job told us they would issue refunds to customers who quit their service. Some did receive them; most did not.”
“It’s one thing when a business fails; it’s another thing to see that on their way out they harm the people who supported them through thick and thin.”
Barnett said he’s heard that some former Odd Job customers are having some issues with their new garbage haulers, but acknowledges that it takes companies time to adjust to the new volume of customers they’ve acquired.
“The difference is, I have a good contact with each so if we have a problem, we can call someone who will answer and address any problems,” Barnett said. “Essentially, we are back to regular garbage service in Orion Township.”