Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Faye Peterson has dismissed the case that Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba filed on April 4, 2022, against the Jackson City Council, following his effort to veto the legislative body’s rejection of his emergency garbage-disposal contract with Richard’s Disposal. The legal development is the latest in the stand-off saga between the mayoral administration and the Jackson City Council over which company should hold the lucrative disposal contract. Three companies responded to the latest Request for Proposal: Waste Management, which has held the contract for over 30 years, Richard’s Disposal, a Black contractor out of Louisiana, and FCC Environmental Services.
Richard’s Disposal took over capital-city garbage disposal on April 1, 2022, after the six-month emergency contract with Waste Management lapsed on March 31, 2022, with Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba signing a one-year emergency contract with the smaller firm. The seven-member city council and the mayor are facing off in court over the move.
The Jackson City Council repeatedly voted down awarding a contract to Louisiana-based Richard’s Disposal after the mayor presented it following the request-for-proposal process and again for a one-year emergency contract at an emergency meeting on April 1, 2022.
At that council meeting, the mayor read a lengthy statement to explain his veto of the council’s rejection of an emergency one-year garbage contract for Richard’s Disposal. He approached the Hinds County Circuit Court three days later on April 4, 2022, asking it to declare that he had the power to veto a no vote from the council. On April 5, 2022, Hinds County Circuit Judge Faye Peterson transferred the case to the Hinds County Chancery Court.
“While it was not disclosed in his complaint, Plaintiff presents legal inquiries created from a retracted footnote in a final order issued on or about March 31, 2022, by Judge Jess (H. Dickinson), a special appointed judge in the Hinds County Chancery Court who presided over the primary dispute between these same parties,” Judge Peterson wrote on April 5, 2022. “This Court will not, now, address the legal issues stemming from the chancery court controversy pursuant to the priority-of-jurisdiction rule.”
On April 14, 2022, the mayor—through his attorney, Felecia Perkins—filed a motion asking the judge to reconsider the April 5, 2022, ruling. Peterson denied the motion on May 5, 2022, and her order transferring the case to the chancery court stands. In the “Order Denying Mayor Lumumba’s Motion for Reconsideration and Order for Dismissal,” Peterson wrote that, “this action should be and is hereby dismissed in its entirety.”
City Council attorney Dershun Martin in a text message to the Mississippi Free Press on May 5, 2022, said that the matter will be transferred to Justice Dickinson. “I fundamentally believe that he understands the law,” he added. Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph appointed Dickinson as a special chancery court judge on March 11, 2022, for Lumumba’s first case against the City Council in that court after the four regular Hinds County chancery court judges recused themselves from the case. Perkins did not reply to an email asking for comments as at press time.
While the court cases were ongoing, the mayor and Richard’s Disposal held town halls to field questions from the public regarding the vendor’s operation—on April 14, 2022, at New Jerusalem Church on Raymond Road and on April 26, 2022, at Pearl Street AME Church on Robinson Street.
FAA to Richard’s Disposal: Stop Using Hawkins Field
Since it began Jackson garbage pickup, Richard’s Disposal, a company based in New Orleans, has been parking its garbage trucks at Hawkins Field, the capital city’s original airport facility under the purview of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority.
On April 13, 2022, the city council voted for a resolution opposing the placement of garbage trucks at the Hawkins Field at Lavernet road that the JMAA operates. Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote, Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes, Ward 5 Councilman Vernon Hartley and Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks voted for the resolution. Ward 2 Councilwoman Angelique Lee and Ward 7 Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay abstained from voting, and Ward 4 Councilman Brian Grizzell voted no.
The resolution that Stokes sponsored outlined concerns about locating the staging area of Richard’s Disposal trucks near residential areas and the City of Jackson golf course. The resolution said the action was “illegal, potentially hazardous, economically damaging, and in total disregard for public health, safety and welfare in the use of the property at Hawkins Field on Lavernet Road as a staging and operational business location for garbage trucks.”
In an April 26 letter, the Federal Aviation Administration told Jackson Municipal Airport Authority CEO Paul Brown that the federal agency objected to Richard’s Disposal’s use of the Jackson Airport to station its garbage trucks. FAA Compliance Specialist Graham Coffelt signed the letter and Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes shared copies at a press conference on May 4, 2022. The FAA referenced a March 29, 2022, letter that JMAA submitted to it asking that it should review the leasing of space at the Hawkins Field airport facility to Richard’s Disposal.
“Thank you for seeking the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) technical support on non-
aeronautical leasing standards at federally obligated airports,” the letter began. “The FAA Office of Airports, Southern Region, Safety and Standards Branch (ASO-620) and Jackson Airports District Office (JAN-ADO) completed a review of leasing documents and supporting information provided by the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA), and object to the proposed use.”
The lease agreement between JMAA and Richard’s Disposal includes leasing 14,083 square feet of hangar, office and storage space; 22,537 square feet of paved area; and 30,002 square feet of apron space.
“The sole purpose of the leasehold will be for storing and staging equipment and personnel related to RDL,” the letter continued. “It has come to our knowledge that the equipment includes garbage trucks.”
“These trucks pose a wildlife attractant due to the nature of the garbage residue and odor.”
At the May 4, 2022, press conference, attorney Dershun Martin, representing the city council in litigation against the mayor, said he had advised Stokes to write to the FAA and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to share his concern regarding the use of the Hawkins Field. “This is essentially a cease-and-desist letter from the FAA,” the lawyer added.
At press time, Richard’s Disposal has not responded to the call the Mississippi Free Press made to the office on May 4, 2022, requesting comments on the letter. Through his communication team, the mayor declined to comment in an email to the Mississippi Free Press on May 5, 2022. “We have no comment at this time,” the email said. The JMAA also did not respond to a request for comments. On May 4, 2022, and May 5, 2022, a receptionist directed calls to an extension 531 for L. Sherie Dean. No one responded, and there has been no response to voice messages.
Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote told the Mississippi Free Press by phone on May 5, 2022, that the letter contradicts information that the mayor provided the council. “I saw the letter posted online, and if that letter is a legit letter, then the mayor and the administration have a lot of explaining to do because they told us that they had gotten approval from the FAA,” he said.
“It was on video, and we specifically asked about that, and the mayor told us they had gotten permission from the FAA, and maybe they talked to a different part of the FAA, but they got some serious explaining to do regardless.”
During the April 1, 2022 meeting, the mayor said he had conferred with the Jackson airport’s CEO and the board regarding Richard’s Disposal’s use of their facility to park its trucks. “They did require, and they did achieve and receive approval from the FAA for the term of one year,” the mayor added in the video recording of the meeting. “It has no sanitary issues because it’s only a parking lot.”
“In essence, they are only storing trucks. It is not where they dispose of garbage, and so that was approved, and the contract was approved.”
However, on April 26, 2022, the FAA letter declared that Richard’s Disposal should vacate the airport without delay because certain land-use practices have the potential to attract wildlife, which can disrupt airport operations.
“[E]ven fully enclosed trash transfer stations that are in a building, property ventilated, and removed all residue, are considered incompatible on airport property,” the letter said. FAA referred to the February 2020 advisory circular on “Hazardous Wildlife Attractants on or near Airports.”
Stokes Warns of ‘Environmental Racism’
At the Wednesday press conference, Stokes leveled environmental racism accusations concerning the move by Richard’s Disposal at the April 13, 2022, council meeting and the May 4, 2022, press conference on May 4, 2022.
“We thank the FAA for standing up and sending the message to the airport authority (that) you cannot have these garbage trucks on airport property—that’s the first step,” he said. “The second thing we are concerned about is environmental racism when you put this nastiness around poor black and brown people all over the country.”
Stokes said there is a danger when rain falls on the trucks the content flows to the creek. “[A]nd the creek is going to have all kinds of dirty diseases and properties that can really hurt someone,” he said. “We have to worry about rats as big as cats, snakes, possums, raccoons, and we worry about all these things that are coming to your community, live in your storage house, and as your children and grandchildren play, they can become beaten and/or hospitalized with their lives threatened.”
“It is not how you want to raise children, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”