‘False, slanderous and egregious’ | Jackson pastor claims councilman launched a public smear campaign against him

Aaron Banks press conference
Aaron Banks press conference
Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 1:45 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A Jackson pastor says a recent press conference was yet another effort by a city councilman to smear him in the wake of the city’s garbage collection controversy.

In October, Dwayne Pickett Sr. filed a slander suit against Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks and Ward 7 Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay, saying that the two told others that he attempted to bribe Banks in exchange for his support for his company’s waste-hauling contract.

Pickett, a pastor with New Jerusalem Church, is a principal with National Wasted United, which was seeking an emergency trash contract with the city. National Waste’s contract was nullified after the city council rescinded the mayor’s state of emergency.

In an amended complaint filed Monday, Pickett said Banks continues to make slanderous public statements against him, pointing to an October 22 press conference at City Hall and an October 25 Facebook podcast hosted by local media personality Othor Cain.

“The statements Mr. Banks made on these public forums are false, slanderous, and egregious. Moreover, Mr. Banks’ behavior and willingness to perpetuate his slanderous statements amount to a smear campaign, which constitutes malice to the highest degree and a reprehensible disregard for the harm caused to (the) plaintiff’s personal and professional reputation,” he wrote.

At the heart of the matter is whether Banks and Lindsay slandered Pickett. Pickett claims Banks told others on one occasion, that he offered him $50,000 “in exchange for his affirmative vote on National Waste United’s emergency contract with the city of Jackson”

Pickett also claims in a separate instance, Banks told others that Pickett offered him $20,000 in support for the National Waste contract.

“The motive and purpose behind Mr. Banks’ false statement (were) to turn fellow councilmembers against the idea of approving a new solid waste vendor that was unwilling to provide perks similar to those that he had received from the current vendor,” Pickett claims.

He goes on to state that Lindsay perpetuated Banks’ statements also to ensure that the current vendor’s contract was renewed.

The vendor in question is Waste Management. The company has been providing solid waste pickup in Jackson for years. However, the previous contract expired on September 30.

On October 22, Banks called a brief press conference at City Hall to discuss the charges brought against him by Pickett.

He said that Pickett did try to bribe him, but the bribe was for his support on the FCC Environmental Services contract.

Earlier this year, the mayor attempted to bring on FCC to replace Waste Management. However, the council twice voted down the proposal on a 3-4 vote. In either case, had Banks reversed his decision, the contract would have been approved.

“Pickett tried to bribe me into voting for the FCC contract the second time it was brought before the council,” Banks said at the time. “I do not know why he has the facts wrong, but let me clear: the offer was to bribe me for the FCC contract.”

Banks said at the press conference that Pickett was to receive $500,000 from FCC and had worked out a deal to help the company build out its Jackson headquarters.

The updated complaint was filed in Hinds County Circuit Court. Pickett is seeking an undetermined amount of damages, saying that he has or will have “suffered significant and irreparable harm to his reputation; mental anguish; severe mental and emotional distress; loss of enjoyment of life; past, present, and future medical expenses; (lost) wages; and other economic and non-economic damages.”

Monday, the council approved hiring legal counsel to represent Banks in the case and determined that an attorney also would be needed to represent Lindsay.

Senior Circuit Judge Tomie Green has recused herself in the case.

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