The two commercial trash haulers who service Shelter Island have been locked in a 21-month legal battle with no resolution in sight.
Jonathan DiVello, owner of Shelter Island Environmental Services, charges in New York State Supreme Court that Dan Binder, owner of Shelter Island Sanitation, is using a company name meant to “to deceive and mislead the public” about who is handling their refuse.
Mr. DiVello maintains that as a result of “unfair competition” — using “Shelter Island” in Mr. Binder’s company’s name — Mr. DiVello’s business has been damaged to an amount exceeding $500,000.
The case originated in August 2012 when Mr. DiVello sent a “cease and desist” letter to Mr. Binder, maintaining that the carter was capitalizing on the “confusion of identity” between the two companies.
The matter landed in Supreme Court Justice Emily Pines’ court in Riverhead where she invoked a temporary injunction that Mr. Binder was entitled to use the names Shelter Island Sanitation and Dan’s Carting and Recycling.
But still pending are allegations by Mr. DiVello that Mr. Binder libeled him and should pay half a million dollars in damages related to the charges.
Mr. DiVello claims a September 2012 letter to the editor from Mr. Binder to the Reporter libeled him. In the letter, Mr. Binder said his company properly recycles refuse his carters pick up and that he’s disappointed many of his customers aren’t investigating practices of “another garbage company” that he doesn’t name.
The Reporter, in an editor’s note, said that Shelter Island Environmental was the other carter on the Island, and also noted that Mr. DiVello has said his carters comply with regulations.
Mr. Binder incorporated his business in 2005 as Shelter Island Sanitation, doing business as Dan’s Carting and Recycling. It’s a small, family-owned business he and his wife operate only on Shelter Island.
Mr. DiVello’s father and uncles purchased Shelter Island Refuse from Fred Ogar in 2003. He and his business partner took over the business in the middle of 2011.
The DiVello family also owns Mattituck Sanitation on the North Fork, which operates from Calverton to Orient. Mr. DiVello is a principal in a $7.1 million recycling facility being built in Cutchogue that last July received a $350,000 tax break from Suffolk County.
“They have a competitor and they want a monopoly,” Mr. Binder told the Reporter last week, speaking about Shelter Island Environmental Services.
He added that legal costs will result in his being unable to earn any profits from his business this year,
“It’s a financial threat for sure,” he said.
After two phone calls asking for comment, Mr. DiVello agreed to answer questions about the case if they were emailed to him, but has not yet responded. Nor has his attorney, Anthony Palumbo of Mattituck.
In court documents, Mr. DiVello said that to avoid legal action, he sought to buy out Mr. Binder, but while his competitor initiallyindicated an interest in making a deal, he backed out at “the eleventh hour.”
Mr. Binder refuted that, saying negotiations never came to an agreement because the sale price offered was inadequate.
Kimberlea Shaw Rea of Shelter Island’s Westervelt & Rea, representing Mr. Binder, told the Reporter that a contract to purchase Mr. Binder’s business would require a “meeting of the minds,” which never took place.
She characterized the lawsuit as “frivolous. ”
Ms. Rea added that there is no truth to the charges Mr. DiVello has leveled against her client. “We are not going to permit this monopoly to take place,” she said.
Mr. Binder has accused Mr. DiVello of trying to lock customers into contracts and “bully and bribe” them to comply.
Mr. DiVello, in a deposition to the court, said he does ask customers to sign five-year contracts and complained that despite that, Mr. Binder has poached some of his customers.
But Mr. Binder maintains that Mr. DiVello has solicited his customers, taking a number of them away with promises of lower costs, but that he has won some back.
The case is due back in Judge Pines Court on May 20.
Part of Shelter Island’s state-mandated Municipal Solid Waste Plan is the recommendation that commercial carters serving the town be licensed. The Town Board has met on the issue once in work session to hammer out details.