JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba will not say whether he’ll veto the Jackson City Council’s decision to approve a temporary garbage collection contract with Waste Management, even as he and his staff maintain the decision itself is unlawful because the mayor’s office never presented the contract to the council in the first place.
Lumumba, speaking briefly after a 90-minute town hall on garbage issues Monday night, said he has not fully weighed that out or contemplated the possibility of striking down the council’s decision.
“One of the things that I have to do, just so you’re aware, I’m really in a position of not doing anything until I get legal counsel, conflict counsel for myself,” Lumumba said. “Even if I wanted to negotiate a contract, I can’t do it without legal representation, and the city attorney’s office is not able to represent any of us now.”
Last week, the city council voted to hire conflict counsel to help it navigate the garbage contract issue, utilizing the Bradley Arant law firm instead of the Office of City Attorney for legal advice and resources.
One of the firm’s attorneys, Roy Campbell, spoke for the council when introducing various last-minute items added to Monday morning’s council agenda, one of which was the decision to approve the Waste Management contract the mayor had not put forth to the council.
Campbell told councilmembers he would have to seek a declaratory judgment from a judge because he couldn’t guarantee that decision was 100 percent legally sound.
“The fact that you have to go to a court to get legal authority to do what you are trying to do…states on its face, that what you are doing is illegal as a city council,” said Safiya Omari, Lumumba’s chief of staff.
Hours later, Lumumba spoke to more than a hundred residents about the administration’s attempts — and subsequent failures — at getting garbage collection vendors passed by the council.
The mayor said after a request for proposals was issued months ago, FCC scored highest according to an independent firm and the council still voted it down twice — in part — because of once-weekly trash pickup being considered.
Lumumba told the crowd there were options for twice-weekly trash pickup but claimed the council was deadset on getting FCC out of the picture because of alleged ties between council members and Waste Management.
“There have been a lot of misrepresentations in this process, saying that we did an illegal bid process. What was illegal about it, saying we chose a company? We didn’t know FCC,” Lumumba said. “And so I just want those facts to be on the table. I want you to be informed. I serve you. So if I’m wrong, tell me I’m wrong.”
Resident Patricia Stamps, when given the chance to ask questions during the town hall, instead said the mayor tried to push contracts on the city that would benefit him financially.
“Lyin’ Lumumba trying to have his way. It’s all about money. Lumumba does not care about the city of Jackson,” Stamps said, at one point getting into a disagreement with Omari after her tirade.
Security guards for the mayor helped escort her away from Omari before the argument became heated.
Some residents said they had no problem with Waste Management, sharing stories of reliable service with the officials in attendance.
Pastor Dwayne Pickett said his concerns with Waste Management go back to employees breaking their back for a company that doesn’t appreciate their work, offering temporary employment and few benefits.
Pickett is listed as the registered agent for National Waste United, LLC, the company Lumumba tried to approve during a state of emergency to provide six months of garbage collection.
Records with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office show National Waste United, LLC was formed on September 20, three days after an agreement between the company and the city was already drawn up and filed with the municipal clerk’s office.
The agreement shows that in its first month, National Waste United would have cost taxpayers more than $1.5 million dollars, half of which went to a “mobilization fee.”
By contrast, the one-month extension from Waste Management costs almost a million dollars less.
Pickett likened his work in trying to improve worker benefits to efforts by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who fought for better working conditions for Memphis sanitation employees.
“We gotta take the courage to stop having to be the subs to these companies that are major conglomerates,” said Pickett. “Their money does not stay in your community. They don’t stay in your community. They don’t spend in your community. They don’t invest in your community, but yet they walk away laughing all the way to the bank.”
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