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Complaint: Trash contractor says competitor seeking trade secrets, financial info

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 11:46 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson’s longtime trash hauler says a competitor could be seeking its trade secrets through a city open record request.

Friday, Waste Management filed a suit in Hinds County Chancery Court, after an attorney for the firm said a competitor issued a request for a copy of its March 2021 proposal to continue residential trash collection in the city.

Waste Management is seeking a protective order and is asking the court to block Jackson from releasing that proposal, saying it contains trade secrets and financial information that a competitor does not need to see.

According to the complaint, Jim McNaughton requested the firm’s response to Jackson’s March 2021 request for proposals for residential collections.

A request for proposals is issued by a governing body for professional services, such as garbage collections. Proposals are then evaluated to choose a contractor for those services.

McNaughton is associated with National Waste United, a company the mayor hoped to hire on an emergency basis after Waste Management’s previous contract with the city ran out.

“City of Jackson legal counsel Terry Williamson... advised that he believes this information was requested on behalf of Lee Bush and National Waste United with the address of Environmental Business Services,” the complaint states.

According to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website, McNaughton is the registered agent for the Brentwood, Tenn.-based Environmental Business Services, a firm associated with National Waste.

He also is vice-president of NCL Waste, a company that had hoped to build a landfill on North County Line Road in Madison County, Mississippi Secretary of State records indicate.

Meanwhile, state documents reveal Lee Rogers Bush Sr. is the organizer of National Waste Systems, a company formed in September that includes some of the same members of National Waste United.

Waste Management says its proposal “contains trade secret, confidential and commercially sensitive financial information that should not be disclosed to the general public or specifically (its) competitors.”

And that “based on the correspondence from the city of Jackson, it appears that Jim McNaughton, National Waste United, and Lee Bush are competitors or potential competition... and would use the pricing information to improperly compete with Waste Management,” the suit states.

On September 17, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba entered into a six-month emergency contract with National Waste to haul trash after talks with Waste Management broke down.

The mayor ended talks with Waste Management after he said company officials were attempting to strong-arm the city into accepting a “lengthy contract.”

Waste Management was one of three firms that responded to the city’s March 2021 RFP. The mayor was forced to enter talks with Waste Management after the council twice rejected a proposal to bring on FCC Environmental Services.

However, Lumumba ended talks with Waste Management after the parties could not agree on a contract length.

Waste Management said it would not offer a contract for less than six years, while the mayor wanted a one-year option.

After talks broke down, the mayor issued a state of emergency and inked a deal with National Waste. However, that agreement was nullified after the council rescinded his state of emergency.

The mayor eventually agreed to keep Waste Management on for another six months, until a new contractor could be hired.

The city issued a new request for proposals in October. Proposals are due to the city at 3 p.m., November 23.

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