Jackson councilman says he’s preparing to file suit against mayor over bribery allegations

Kenneth Stokes
Kenneth Stokes(WLBT)
Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 3:15 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The mayor’s recent comments that Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes has accepted bribes to ensure a certain contractor would receive the city’s trash contract will likely result in a lawsuit.

Tuesday, Stokes said he was preparing to file a suit against Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba for comments the mayor made at a recent press conference that he and another councilman were taking bribes to keep the city from awarding a contract to Richard’s Disposal.

“At no time has Kenny Stokes taken a bribe and it’s time for everyone... if we have to go into a court of law to prove this, let’s do it,” he said.

Stokes brought up Lumumba’s comments at Tuesday’s special council meeting.

The council was considering a motion to hire a special attorney to determine whether the city attorney could represent Lumumba in a case brought against him by Waste Management.

The measure was approved on a 5-1 vote, with Stokes voting against it.

The Law Office of Felicia Perkins, PA, will be retained to undertake “such actions as deemed appropriate for and on behalf of... the mayor,” city documents state.

In February, Waste Management filed suit in Hinds County Circuit Court, arguing the mayor had created a “fake” emergency to ensure that Richard’s, his choice for solid waste collections, received a lucrative city contract.

This year, the council twice voted down a proposal to hire Richard’s. After that, the mayor declared a state of emergency over garbage collections and signed a one-year emergency deal with Richard’s to collect residential waste.

The council later amended the mayor’s emergency order, removing all mention of Richard’s Disposal from it. At a special meeting on March 8, the council voted down a measure to ratify the mayor’s contract with the New Orleans firm twice.

At a press conference last week, Lumumba expressed his frustration with the council’s actions, saying Stokes and Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote had taken bribes and were in cahoots.

“When’s the last time that you saw Kenny Stokes show up to this many special council meetings? These are the things that you have to look at,” Lumumba said at Monday’s mayoral press briefing. “When’s the last time that you saw Kenny Stokes and Ashby Foote so closely aligned to one another? You have to ask yourself what is going on here.”

Stokes said if the council hires an attorney to represent the mayor in the Waste Management suit, it also needs to hire an attorney to represent him.

“In the past, the mayor would have to hire his own lawyer and then the determination would be made at the end of the case, whether you (won or lost),” Stokes told the council. “My concern is that (if) we’re going to start hiring lawyers in the beginning, I want to make sure you hire my lawyer, as I prepare to file a slander suit against the mayor.”

Deputy City Attorney Terry Williamson said the city could not hire legal representation to represent a councilman in a slander suit, and that it was “not something covered under the Torts Claim Act.”

“It would be outside the scope of the official’s duties and the city would not provide an attorney for that,” he said.

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