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Payments to Jackson vendors, JPS sidelined after majority of council votes against it

Lumumba and Stokes trade barbs while some council business remains unfinished
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 8:57 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As Jackson’s mayor and a city councilman trade unproven claims about elected officials, the rift between the two parts of city government gets wider.

On Tuesday, that meant some of the public’s business didn’t get approved.

Jackson’s claims docket -- which includes payments to vendors for services rendered to the city -- not just failed once, but later attempts to reconsider it also failed, too.

Those larger payments include $13.8 million in utility taxes owed to Jackson Public Schools and more than $300,000 paid out of the city’s 1% Sales Tax Fund to Hemphill Construction for Belhaven Creek drainage improvements, Chief Financial Officer Fidelis Malembeka told the council.

“Their claims docket has a lot that I may not want to be signing for,” said Vernon Hartley.

But the Ward 5 councilman didn’t elaborate on any of that, citing legal concerns.

“They don’t trust what’s going on with claims, but I’ve always voted against claims and I will continue to vote against claims,” added Kenneth Stokes.

His reasoning Tuesday is because of one vendor in particular: Tyler Technologies.

Tyler Technologies had been contracted to upgrade -- and in some cases, overhaul -- several aspects of the city’s public safety systems, including the city’s 911 system, municipal court and vehicle technology utilized by officers of the Jackson Police Department.

Ward 4 Councilman Brian Grizzell made a motion to exclude $420,755 in payments to Tyler before the council voted on claims, so they could discuss those invoices further.

That change passed 4-0 with three council members abstaining.

Council President Virgi Lindsay suggested going into executive session to talk about the Tyler-specific payments, which would be conducted at the end of Tuesday’s meeting.

That executive session ended without any action taken by the council.

Another vote ended with some on the council and mayor’s administration unsure of the outcome: an item to reconfirm Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba to the 1% Sales Tax Commission.

That contentious vote wasn’t the only thing unresolved from the council meeting.

Lumumba pulled an item from consideration that would have ratified a one-year emergency contract with Richard’s Disposal for garbage collection services.

“The administration has put forth every option that it has available to us. At this point, I think we’re headed to court. And I think that the courts will determine those questions,” Lumumba said.

The mayor’s decision coming one day after he lobbed unfounded claims of bribery against council members.

“If the mayor stated Kenny Stokes took a bribe, it’s time for him to put up or shut up,” Stokes said.

Stokes reiterated his own claim -- without evidence -- saying Lumumba was on drugs, citing a source close to the mayor.

Lumumba answered that after Tuesday’s meeting.

“I have never done any drugs in my life. And that is foolish, right? I think that it was funny. You know, for those people who looked at it, but that’s what you expect from a clown is to always be funny,” Lumumba said.

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