Lumumba denies ‘civil conspiracy’ allegations; claims council is trying to bankrupt Richard’s Disposal

Chokwe Antar Lumumba speaking at a previous press conference.
Chokwe Antar Lumumba speaking at a previous press conference.
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 1:13 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba recently denied claims that he engaged in “civil conspiracy” with Richard’s Disposal.

Last week, the city council filed a cross-claim in the latest trash lawsuit, saying the mayor committed “civil conspiracy” to “accomplish a lawful purpose unlawfully,” damaging the Jackson City Council.

The suit was not specific in exactly what conspiracy the mayor was involved in, except saying that the mayor “performed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy, and damages to the city council are a proximate result.”

The claim comes after Richard’s filed suit in federal court seeking $1.6 million and court costs, roughly the amount the company says it’s owed for picking up residential waste in the capital city for April and May.

Lumumba denied the allegations in front of the crowd gathered for a Ward 2 town hall meeting at Stronger Hope Baptist Church on Tuesday.

“As if it requires me to encourage somebody to sue for their own money,” he said. “It doesn’t require me to say anything. They know what’s going on. They know you’re trying to bankrupt them so that they can’t be a fair bidder.”

Lumumba issued the New Orleans-based Richard’s a notice to proceed back in February. In a letter on April 1, the mayor again told Richard’s that it was “the city of Jackson’s selected vendor to provide emergency solid waste services beginning April 1.”

The company took over collections for the city on April 1.

That same day, attorney Deshun Martin informed the council that he sent Richard’s attorneys a cease-and-desist letter, saying it did not have a valid contract and they would not be paid for work done.

“My fear is that this company can’t continue to work forever, for free. And I see that end coming sooner rather than later,” Lumumba said. “And when that happens, then we’re going to be stuck with the issue of, one, your trash piling up. And me having to face the illegal notion of going into a contract that isn’t justified and could potentially subject us to more financial implications going forward.”

Lumumba went on to say Richard’s won the RFP process and rightfully should have been awarded the contract by the city council.

An RFP is a request for proposals. The city issued an RFP in October for garbage collection services. Three firms responded, including Richard’s, FCC Environmental Services, and the city’s previous waste-hauler, Waste Management.

According to the RFP, respondents could provide proposals for picking up trash once or twice a week, with options of providing trash carts.

The mayor told those in attendance that he tried to involve the council in the process, to give them a say in who would pick up the trash.

“I actually laid down my executive authority to pick the contract myself, and I gave [the council] all the bids... and put it before them and said, ‘you pick,’” he said. “And what they did, they said, ‘listen, we just want to eliminate the one-day-a-week options. Mayor, we trust you to pick from the twice-a-week options.’”

He said he did not know who won the bid. However, he intimated that some council members likely could have.

“I would tell you if you had a relationship with one of the companies, they could tell you what their price was, and you could know what that company was,” he said. “But out of the two remaining twice-a-week options, I chose the one that was $12 million cheaper. It was $12 million cheaper with a bin, as opposed to $12 million more expensive without a bin.”

The twice-a-week option with the cart was around $756,000 a month and was submitted by Richard’s. The winning proposal for the twice-a-week option without a cart was $858,000 and was submitted by Waste Management.

The council rejected bringing on Richard’s multiple times. It also voted down awarding a one-year emergency contract to the firm.

According to a copy of the RFP, the city can reject proposals at any point during the selection process, modify or postpone the project in the RFP, evaluate alternatives offered, and accept “the proposal that, in the city’s sole judgment, is in its best interest.”

City reserves the right to reject all bids submitted as part of October solid waste RFP.
City reserves the right to reject all bids submitted as part of October solid waste RFP.(WLBT)

Even with such a broad scope, Lumumba believes the council’s votes to reject Richard’s could put the city in danger of additional litigation.

“What the RFP requires, is the only way that I can negotiate with another firm is if the winning firm walks away from the table or fails to meet any of our negotiations,” he said. “Otherwise, if I cut them down, without them walking away, or without them... saying we don’t want to negotiate with you anymore, then what I subject the city to is a lawsuit for the cost of the contract. It would bankrupt the city, essentially, if I went with that.”

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