Conflict continued this week as the capital city’s council and mayor debated which waste disposal contract to sign.
Here’s a timeline of events that led up to the debacle:
Tensions began in August 2021 when the city council began discussing the need to re-sign a waste disposal contract for the city of Jackson.
Before August, Jackson’s mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, proposed using a waste disposal company called FCC Environmental Services for a six-year duration. The contract would cost around $10.4 million, with an estimated bid of each household costing $19.67 per month. By August 9, the city council had voted against the provider twice with almost no debate.
The current trash collector company for the city of Jackson was Waste Management, which had a contract with the city that would expire on September 30. Waste Management has overseen Jackson’s waste disposal for 35 years, as the council wished to continue working with them, but the Jackson mayor did not.
After the council and mayor could not decide who Jackson’s waste disposal contract would be with, Mayor Lumumba issued an emergency contract for six additional months with Waste Management before the September contract ended.
Lumumba voiced that he was not happy with the contract, as numerous temp workers for the company were kept on staff for years because of staffing shortages. He also claimed that there had been threats of strikes from the staff because of the mistreatment from Waste Management.
Waste Management attorney J. Chase Bryan refuted Lumumba’s claims saying, “Waste Management strongly disagrees with the City’s characterization of how we treat our team members. Waste Management has a People First culture.”
The company then released a statement with testimonials from five employees from varying years of service with the company.
As the emergency contract went into effect on October 1, the mayor and city council continued their search by issuing a request for proposals (RFP) from qualifying companies in October. The RFPs were due in late November 2021, with the expected decision scheduled to be taken to the city council on January 4.
As the RFPs were released, three companies were announced in December as potential waste disposals for Jackson: FCC Environmental Service, Waste Management, and Richard’s Disposal.
Waste Management had the second-highest scorer of the October RFP for a twice-a-week collection provider with a 96-gallon cart requirement for the customer and it was also the top scorer for a twice-a-week collection provider without the requirement of a cart.
Waste Management’s estimated bid was the second-to-last lowest bid of $17.25 per month and Richard’s Disposal ranked the lowest with $16 a month. Richard’s Disposal ranked first of the October request for proposals (RFP) for a twice-a-week collection provider with a 96-gallon cart requirement for the customer.
The council pushed for the continuation of using Waste Management as the city’s provider when the list of qualifying RFPs was presented, but Lumumba then proposed the use of Richard’s Disposal as the company ranked first in the agreed-upon service and was the cheapest RFP.
Voting between the two companies occurred in the council in January, with voting against the mayor’s proposed contract with Richard’s Disposal, not once, but twice. Richard’s Disposal was later planned to be on the agenda for additional discussion at a council meeting, but it was voted to be removed from the agenda by the council.
In early February, Lumumba issued an emergency declaration regarding the trash disposal contracts, then awarded the contract to Richard’s Disposal. The city’s contract with the company would last for one year and would begin on April 1, 2022.
The council then passed for the continuation of Lumumba’s state of emergency but removed Richard’s Disposal from the declaration and replaced it with Waste Management.
As a result of the mayor’s pushing to use Richard’s Disposal despite the council’s decision, Waste Management sent a letter explaining their disapproval of the mayor’s emergency contract in late February, claiming it was not within the mayor’s rights to consistently defy the decision of the council.
“The mayor’s actions are arbitrary and capricious and he cannot in bad faith create a ‘fake’ emergency. Mississippi law defines an emergency as an ‘unforeseen occurrence or combination of circumstances which calls for immediate action or remedy; a pressing necessity,’” attorneys for Waste Management wrote. “There is not an emergency and the mayor’s actions do not comply with (state statute).”
A lawsuit was filed by Waste Management against the mayor on February 25, with the mayor responding that he believed the city had good chances against the suit.
“We have taken on a multinational company before. We are 1-0, and I like our chances,” Lumumba explained. Further action against the lawsuit has yet to occur.
A city council meeting was also held on February 25, where Lumumba brought up allegations of bribery and steering the garbage contracts, questioning why the council would choose a contract that is $12 million more than Lumumba proposed.
“I’m gonna be more clear than I believe I’ve ever been for you,” Lumumba said. “I believe certain members of our council have taken bribes and are steering a contract.”
“Because he knows, and everybody else knows, Kenny Stokes has never taken a bribe and never will,” Stokes said. “If the mayor stated Kenny Stokes took a bribe, it’s time for him to put up or shut up.”
Lumumba defended the accusations he made at the meeting, explaining that he did not specifically name anyone who he suspected of taking bribes.
The Jackson mayor then mentioned Stokes’ increased attendance at the city council meetings, which was not a normal occurrence for Stokes. Lumumba also questioned the relationship between Stokes and Ashby Foote, insinuating that they had a closer relationship since the proposed contract with Waste Management.
Stokes responded angrily over Lumumba’s comments to local news station WLBT, accusing the mayor of using drugs and claiming that he was going to get the FBI involved.
“I will have a formal letter to the US attorney and to the FBI asking them to contact the mayor. Ask the mayor for proof, and if the mayor cannot provide proof, I want the mayor to take a drug test. I think the mayor is smoking too much dope, and it’s affecting his thinking.”
A letter was hand-delivered by Stokes to the U.S. Attorney’s Office after the March 1 council meeting, calling Lumumba’s accusations “intentionally malicious and false.”
Lumumba defended himself against the councilman’s claims of drug use after the meeting.
“I have never done any drugs in my life. And that is foolish, right? I think that it was funny. You know, for those people who looked at it, but that’s what you expect from a clown is to always be funny,” Lumumba retorted.
Both the mayor and city councilman stated that they would take drug tests if required, while the emergency contract’s end date is scheduled for March 31.
Senator John Horhn, who ran against Lumumba for mayor in Jackson in 2014, commented on the debacle in a recent interview with SuperTalk Mississippi.
“I try not to listen to stuff like that because it really makes the city look bad. It’s unprofessional, it’s childish, and it needs to stop,” Horhn said. “If the State Auditor wasn’t looking at the city before, it certainly is looking at the city now.”
Shad White later explained that there was nothing that could be done from the auditor’s office to prevent these things from happening.
“We cannot routinely audit municipal entities, unfortunately,” White disclosed.
The city council and the mayor will meet again today to discuss the arguments between Stokes and Lumumba, attempting to put the issue to rest.
The post Timeline of ongoing trash saga in the Capital City appeared first on SuperTalk Mississippi.