Mayor, City Council at odds over state of emergency, garbage contract.
On Monday, Special Judge Jess Dickinson, a former state Supreme Court Justice, has scheduled a hearing and status conference for 2 p.m. in the case of Lumumba v. Jackson City Council in the Hinds Chancery Court. Dickinson was appointed to hear the case by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Motions to be heard are Motions to Intervene filed by Waste Management of Mississippi, Inc., and Waste Disposal Systems, LLC.
According to Jackson Jambalaya, this request for an emergency hearing was made by the Jackson City Council. They filed the motion which also asks the Court to void a one-year emergency garbage contract Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba awarded to Richard’s Disposal of New Orleans.
“The City Council argued it never voted to award a garbage contract to Richard’s Disposal but twice voted down such a contract,” Kingfish reported. “The motion accuses the Mayor of declaring a phony state of emergency so he can award the contract to the Crescent City company.”
This saga began last year when Jackson’s garbage contract with Waste Management expired. The company had provided garbage collection to Jackson for 30 years. Many Jackson residents have expressed that that service was one of the few municipal services that was actually working as it should for those living in the capital city.
Garbage contracts for municipal governments are big business. It is not uncommon for companies to wine and dine city executives, lobbying for these contracts and making strong cases to enter a market whereby a company who may not even have the necessary equipment on hand at the time can win a contract and expand their business using it as leverage to purchase new trucks and other items. This often results in a lag in service, at least for a period as the new company has to “learn the ropes,” which more often than not frustrates residents. Seasoned municipal officials often simply seek to renew existing contracts to avoid any interruption of garbage collection, that is unless there are glaring issues with the provider or significant cost increases are being proposed.
Mayor Lumumba, however, chose to explore other options for Jackson. He recommended a Houston company, FCC, for once-a-week service while providing a mandatory 96-gallon garbage cart to customers. The City Council twice rejected that contract. The two branches of Jackson government went to court but settled as Waste Management agreed to provide garbage service for another six months.
The Lumumba administration re-issued an RFP for the garbage contract in October 2021. Waste Management said it scored first for the proposal for twice a week without providing a garbage cart to customers. However, Richard’s Disposal of New Orleans offered to provide the same service with 96-gallon garbage carts at a lower price. The Mayor recommended the City Council award the contract to the New Orleans-based company. But the City Council twice rejected the contract after a great deal of contentious debate.
Mayor Lumumba declared a state of emergency and issued a one-year contract to Richard’s Disposal that would begin on April 1, as the current contract with Waste Management ends on March 31st.
In that emergency order and contract (shown below in full), however, the Lumumba administration specifically state that “the governing body of the City of Jackson is responsible for reviewing and approving the need for continuing the local emergency.
It further states that, “Within fourteen (14) days of receipt of a fully executed Agreement that has been approved by the City Council or otherwise authorized by a Court of Competent jurisdiction, the City of Jackson shall issue a Notice to Proceed.”
Waste Management sued Jackson and Mayor Lumumba on February 25 in Hinds County Circuit Court, asking the Court to issue an injunction against the city. Waste Management said the Mayor refused to recommend another company after the City Council rejected Richard’s Disposal. The company asked the Court to enforce the RFP and cancel the Mayor’s declaration of an emergency.
Their complaint argued no emergency exists and any claimed emergency exists because the Mayor “slow-walked the process and refused to negotiate” with other vendors.
Waste Management petitioned the Court to allow the City Council to act for the city and reach an agreement with the company because of “the Mayor’s failure to act.” The City Attorney called the petition an “empty lawsuit.”
Last week, the Jackson City Council ultimately discontinued the Mayor’s emergency order that awarded a contract to Richard’s Disposal and then voted twice against the Richard’s Disposal one-year Emergency Contract.
It also came to light last week that Richard’s Disposal had been given a “Notice to Proceed” even though there had been no approval of the contract by the City Council or a Court of Competent jurisdiction, as referenced above.
Mayor Lumumba then sued the Jackson City Council in Hinds County Chancery Court to press the issue, seeking a Declaratory Judgement in Hinds County Chancery Court to invalidate the City Council’s actions.
The City Council subsequently hired outside counsel to represent the governing board.
All Hinds County judges recused themselves, which led the State Supreme Court to appoint retired Justice Dickinson to act as Chancellor in this case.