Leaked memo says city attorney has no conflict of interest, council can’t negotiate contracts
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – A Jackson councilman’s claims that prompted the city’s attorney to walk out of a special meeting are baseless, according to a “privileged and confidential” memo the council received weeks earlier.
On Tuesday, City Attorney Catoria Martin walked out of the meeting in anger after Ward 5 Councilman Vernon Hartley said the city’s current trash emergency was the result of “poor planning and wrong motives”.
An independent lawyer responsible for evaluating the city’s bidding process, however, revealed that the tender issued in October was “well-designed…well-organized (and) easy to understand.”
The council and administration continue to disagree over who will pick up guests’ rubbish.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba wants to use Richard’s Disposal to transport the waste.
The board has rejected contracts with the New Orleans-based company four times, with some members openly saying they want to keep the current supplier, Waste Management.
Lumumba claimed that some council members took bribes to direct the city’s garbage trade to this company.
The council, meanwhile, alleged a similar conflict of interest between the mayor, the city attorney and Richard, and called on its own legal representation to determine whether that was the case.
A memo sent to council on Feb. 10, however, appeared to discredit those concerns, saying the city attorney had no conflict of interest and should be involved in the RFP process.
“Public procurement is a potential minefield for the unwary and in almost every case a public body should insist on the close involvement of its attorney through the multiple steps necessary to comply with everything the law requires,” wrote attorney Roy Campbell. “Nowhere is that more desirable than with a service contract, like here.”
Campbell is a partner at the law firm Bradley Arant. The council brought in Campbell to advise them on the waste hauling situation in the city.
A request for proposals is a request for proposals. Cities issue calls for tenders for certain professional services, such as residential waste collection.
The city released its current garbage haul tender in October. Three companies submitted proposals: Waste Management, Richard’s Disposal and FAC Environmental Services.
Martin actively participated in the evaluation process, but also led the public meetings and was the resource person to answer questions from board members during the meetings.
Council members questioned why Martin had been at the forefront, when the director of public works and the manager of solid waste were left out.
One of the few times the Director of Public Works was heard from was during a meeting in January, when Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote specifically asked the Director of Public Works a question.
Foote says Martin should be involved in the process, but has also been placed in the position of being the administration’s attorney for Richard.
“That’s a big part of the problem. She is placed in a very delicate position, being the quarterback in the field trying to make the contact while also being the city attorney, ”he said. “The mayor gives her the responsibility of getting the contract through the council, when she should be giving advice to the council.”
This concern has spilled over into recent meetings, with council members and the lawyer nudging each other.
“I’m trying to quickly read something from another law firm…Young and Wells…” Ward 3 Councilor Kenneth Stokes said at a Feb. 24 meeting.
“Oh, they give you legal advice? Martin fired back.
“Well, they do a better job than you do,” Stokes said.
Young Wells Williams PA is the company representing Waste Management.
While Foote and Stokes raised concerns, Campbell said the lawyer’s public involvement shouldn’t raise red flags either.
“Having participated in this (RFP assessment) process, the public body’s attorney is the best person to advise on compliance with the requirements of the law, and the proposal is most desirable for the electors.”
As for the tender itself, Campbell said it was “extremely well-designed…It was comprehensive, well-organized, easy to understand, and included useful references and attachments,” he said. -he writes. “The instructions made it clear that proposals would be evaluated on technical merits and price, ultimately the proposal that offered the best value to the city would be selected.”
Under the October RFP, Respondents were allowed to respond to four options: once-weekly pickups with carts, once-weekly pickups without carts, twice-weekly pickups with carts, and twice-weekly pickups per week without carts.
Carts are 96 gallon trash cans. Some leaders have expressed concern that the cans are too big for older people and people with accessibility issues.
Companies were scored on their technical proposal (30%), presentation/interview (25%), equal opportunity plan (EBO) (10%) and cost (35%).
The proposals were reviewed by a six-member team comprising three people from administration, as well as three people from public works and solid waste. Technical proposals were evaluated first and scored “blind,” meaning the evaluators did not know the vendors’ names, Campbell said.
Before scoring on the award, Campbell told the board that Waste Management received the highest score for all four collection options, followed by FCC and then Richard.
After contract costs were taken into account, the scores were as follows:
- Once a week without trolley – FCC
- Once a week with a trolley – FCC
- Twice a week without cart – Waste Management
- Twice a week with a trolley – Richard’s Disposal
In January, council members received the contract costs for each of the options and were asked to advise the mayor on which proposal to adopt.
Lumumba chose to trade with Richard’s based on the board’s recommendation to only consider options twice a week.
“Based on my review…the process complied with the law, best practices were considered and utilized to the extent required, and the most important criterion – price – was given appropriate weight,” Campbell wrote. . “From this, I firmly believe that the City Attorney’s involvement in the process did not conflict with or impede his objectivity.”
The eight-page memorandum also addressed council’s other concerns, including the two-vote rule that prohibits points from being raised for a third vote, whether council has the power to award contracts, and whether council has the power to hire. his own independent lawyer.
Last year, the council rejected the mayor’s proposal to bring in FCC environmental services, then voted to overturn its state of emergency. Council then dodged the mayor to approve a month-long garbage collection contract with Waste Management.
Following this decision, a lawsuit was filed in the Chancery Court. And after a short court battle, the council and mayor agreed to strike a new deal with Waste Management to continue garbage services until March 31.
As part of this resolution, council agreed to recognize “the respective duties and obligations of the mayor and council with respect to the evaluation and negotiation of responses to a request for proposal(s) for the provision of services collection and transportation of solid waste. ”
On Tuesday, the board rejected a proposal to ratify a one-year emergency contract with Richard’s in back-to-back 4-1-1 votes. The second council vote came after Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks introduced a motion for reconsideration. The reconsideration motion passed, allowing the second vote.
Banks moved the reconsideration motion, so the contract could not be put to a board vote again for another year. The two-vote rule has been cited by the council and the media for years. However, Campbell’s memo also calls those claims into question.
Jackson’s code section states that “any member of the board may, before the adjournment of the meeting where the question is under consideration, propose to reconsider the vote. A motion to reconsider requires one second. If the reconsideration motion passes, the previous vote on the action is deemed null and void, and the matter is referred to the board as if no action had been taken. Any matter that has been considered and voted on by the board for a period of one year, except by a vote of two-thirds of the members of the board.”
Campbell said that because the two-vote rule “arise in the context of a reconsideration motion, whatever this limitation is, it must be construed as meaning and applied to reconsideration motions.”
“My research clearly shows that reconsideration motions can only be used for actions taken earlier in the same meeting. They do not apply to votes taken at previous meetings.
This means the mayor can resubmit Richard’s original contract, even though the council has now rejected it twice. It also means the mayor can present the emergency contract again, even though it was rejected twice at Tuesday’s special meeting.
Campbell, who represented council in its lawsuit against Lumumba last year, also told members they had no authority to hire an independent attorney when the city already employs a municipal attorney.
He provided his advice for free. Attorney Martin could not be reached for comment.
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