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Crisis Averted: Jackson Mayor, Council Allow Waste Management Six Months of Trash Pickup

Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba in a mask, blue suit and no tie, addressing a wall of reporters
Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba addressed the media on Thursday, Sept. 30, after Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Tiffany Grove dismissed the city council's Sept. 27 case against him. The ruling paved the way for a city contract with Waste Management Inc. to continue garbage disposal in the capital city for six months, preventing an environmental crisis after the current contract lapses the same deal of the deal, Sept. 30, 2021. Photo by Kayode Crown

Waste Management Inc. will continue to pick up trash for six more months with the City going through another round of contract procurement during that period, ending a standoff between Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba and the Jackson City Council, at least for now.

Today, the city council decided to dismiss the case it had brought on Monday, Sept. 27, and provide a service continuity after the current Waste Management contract lapses at midnight tonight.

Before Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Tiffany Grove dismissed the case against Lumumba, the city council and mayor reached an agreement for Waste Management to provide garbage-disposal services. The cost is $10.56 per month per household for October and $15 for each of the five additional months, during which the mayoral administration will institute another request for proposal.

The city council approved the dismissal of the lawsuit against the mayor and rescinded its emergency declaration aspart of its agreement with the mayor.

The dismissal of the case is without a ruling on the merit of the case. Judge Grove dismissed the case due to the settlement the two parties reached.

Tiffany Grove wearing a black suite with shoulder length blonde hair standing beside a golden decoration that says "The Great Seal of the State of Mississippi"
On Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Tiffany Grove dismissed the Jackson City Council’s case against the mayor. The council had asked the court to approve its move to have a one-month garbage disposal contract with Waste Management for October. The mayor and the city council reached an agreement for the case’s dismissal extending Waste Management service for another six months. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Grove

At the Thursday special council meeting, Lumumba said that Waste Management has emailed the six-month proposal for him to consider. It has the exact terms of services as what expires today. He declared a state of local emergency late that evening.

“The administration will immediately go forward with the RFP process,” the mayor said Thursday at the special council meeting.

While fielding questions from the media after the court judgment, the mayor said that Waste Management had earlier declined to offer the City a short-term contract, citing legal and financial constraints and impact, but then offered one to the city council.

The decision to dismiss the case came today after a few hours of closed-door negotiation at the Hinds County Chancery Court. On Monday, Sept. 27, the city council sued the mayor, claiming that he had abdicated his responsibility to provide for garbage disposal after the council’s Sept. 22 meeting. That day, the council rescinded the mayor’s Sept. 17 emergency declaration.

Older man with glasses in a black suit with a light green tie, standing in front of a window
Attorney Roy D. Campbell III, of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP, addressed the Jackson City Council on Monday, Sept. 27. On Wednesday, Sept 22, the council retained him to represent it in possible legal conflict relating to the garbage-disposal contract. That day, the council rescinded Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba’s Friday, Sept. 17, emergency order for the city’s garbage collection. Photo courtesy Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

The mayor at that time said he needed to proceed with the emergency declaration after negotiations with Waste Management hit the rocks, and the Sept. 30 deadline, when the current contract will end, drew near. The mayor entered into a contract with National Waste United, LLC on Sept. 17. The council effectively ended that agreement with its reversal of the mayor’s emergency declaration.

The council enacted its emergency declaration on Monday, Sept. 27. It approved Waste Management’s proposed 30-day emergency contract to the chagrin of the mayor. He claimed that the company did not engage in good-faith negotiation after the council voted down FCC Environmental Services Inc. for a garbage contract with the City in August. FCC won the bid, in which Waste Management and Richard’s Disposal also participated.

Lumumba: ‘Council Usurped the Mayor’s Authority’

In a special council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 29, the city council approved the Law Office of Felicia Perkins and A.R. Smith Law, PLLC, to defend the mayor in the litigation. Before today’s dismissal of the case, Lumumba filed a response to the claims the city council made against him.

“The City Council alleged that the Mayor abdicated his responsibility to provide for the collection and disposal of garbage and rubbish. However, the truth is that the City Council usurped the Mayor’s authority to protect the interests of the citizens of Jackson in order to put the City under a contract with its preferred company,” Lumumba said in his brief.

“It is undisputed that both the City Council and the Mayor have the authority to declare a local emergency pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. §33-15-17(d). 24. However, the dispute is whether Mississippi law grants the City Council authority to enter into negotiations with a Service Provider to the City and whether Mississippi law grants the City Council to enter into contracts. The answer to both questions is a resounding no.”

The mayor said that the council has no power to negotiate a contract without him. “The City Council had plenty of time to discuss the issues regarding garbage disposal with the Mayor during its September 21, 22, and 27, 2021, special meetings. Instead, the City Council, not acting in the best interests of the citizens of Jackson, denied the existence of an emergency until it could, on its own, negotiate and put into place its own contract with its preferred provider.”

Close up of the side of a green garbage bin with a Waste Management label
Waste Management Inc. will continue garbage disposal in the capital city for six months, while the City goes through a request-for-proposal process for a long-term contract. Photo by Kayode Crown

Lumumba: Service Poor in ‘Certain Parts’ of City

“If you will recall, this all started based on a number of concerns that we stated we had within the current contract, both as it related to employees’ conditions and calls for failed service from our residents that was mentioned to Waste Management two years ago, and it was not cured. And so the administration said that we wanted a short-term agreement as an opportunity to build good faith and eliminate those challenges,” he said.

The mayor noted that having one man on the back of the truck leads to poor services in certain areas of the city. Waste Management has denied allegations of poor treatment of workers and service.

“Because when you have one man on the back of a truck, and he’s carrying an entire neighborhood’s load of trash, then they make decisions in order to preserve their body,” the mayor said. “They say, I’m not going to pick up that trash. That leads to complaints within our communities.”

“There are communities that have no problem with Waste Management because they are treated with a level of service that is as it should be. And we’re not mad that they get good service. What we don’t like is that that is not provided across the city,” he added. “And so we’re going to make certain that that is paramount in any long-term agreement that is established.”

After the court proceedings, Council President Virgi Lindsay of Ward 7 said that the ruling indicates progress. “This is a wonderful sign that the city council and the mayor are going to work together to resolve this. And this was a very good and productive morning,” she said.

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