Jackson mayor responds to auditors’ findings Siemens settlement funds have ‘disappeared’
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has responded to a story outlining how the city’s Siemens settlement funds have been spent. A copy of his statement is shown below:
“A couple of years ago, my administration took on the Herculean task of addressing past wrongs that have led to a dysfunctional, unreliable, and inconsistent water meter and billing problem.”
“It is the result of the City’s disastrous contract with Siemens Industry, Inc. to update and modernize our system in 2012. Instead of passing on savings to the City of Jackson, it instead led to long-term problems we face today.”
“With the help of an outside legal team specifically tailored to these kinds of municipal contracts, the City of Jackson took the risk of suing Siemens, eventually settling for the entire amount of the City’s largest-ever contract. Note: If we did not take that risk we would not even be having a discussion about the approximately $60 million dollars that we recouped.”
‘Since we took receipt of the funds over two years ago, my administration moved to use that money in the most fiscally conservative way possible and shore up existing debt from the original contract, from emergency transfers for water sewer repairs from the general fund, and to ensure we had a reserve to stabilize our credit rating.’
“Not doing so would have been catastrophic. It could have led to a receivership where an outside entity takes over the system, or possibly even bankruptcy. Just about all of Siemens settlement cash went to paying the city’s debt and it was all related to water/sewer issues. We have discussed all of this at length in public forums. I talked about it as recently as Monday.”
“I should also note that it isn’t just since 2018 that we’ve operated under a deficit. We have had a deficit on the water/sewer side of the ledger well before that, the result of an inability to read faulty water meters. As noted above, our reserves helped to cover that deficit in the past – until there were no longer any reserves left.”
“The larger, more important question should be what are we doing to right the ship? It is unsustainable to run a water department when you aren’t receiving water revenue. We are currently installing new water meters for all water customers across the city. The goal, of course, is to generate the revenue we need to stabilize our water and sewer departments. This follows our push for a water forgiveness plan for residents who face financial challenges or circumstances outside their control.”
“Jackson has many problems. It has limited financial resources. So, the Siemens money, which we recouped after taking the risk of suing the international corporation, can be accounted for down to the last penny. We are very thankful for it because, without it, we would be in a much, much worse position than we are today.”
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