Richard’s Disposal has again sued Jackson, Mississippi, as part of an ongoing series of contract and legal disputes between the hauler, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and the Jackson City Council.
The hauler announced the lawsuit April 10, alleging the city wrongfully denied the company a six-year hauling contract despite the company being the most qualified for the job. The city council voted down a proposal on April 1 that would have given Richard’s a six-year contract. The city’s contract with Richard’s expired on March 31, leaving the city without trash service. On Wednesday, council also voted down a separate proposal to award Richard’s another one-year emergency waste hauling contract meant to cover collection services while the city sorts out its legal and contract disputes.
In the lawsuit, Richard’s says the city must award it the contract and pay damages, but the city’s lawyer told WLBT the hauler does not have a strong legal case.
It’s the second time Richard’s has sued Jackson. It filed a separate lawsuit last year, saying it had not been paid for its emergency hauling services and was owed at least $4 million for the period between April and August 2022. Jackson has since said it would resolve the issue and pay for service.
In the meantime, Jacksonians without trash service are hiring private hauling companies or waiting in long lines to dump trash at city-approved dumpsters, the Clarion Ledger reported. Trash bags are piling up on curbs, and public trash cans are more full than usual, it said.
The dispute over Jackson’s collection services has been going on since at least 2021. The issues stem from a disagreement between Lumumba and city council members over who has the legal authority to finalize the waste contracts. Jackson has since undergone multiple rounds of requests for proposals and emergency contracts.
The legal battles also leave questions about how Jackson could proceed with choosing a long-term waste hauling contract. Lumumba has repeatedly said Richard’s is the most cost-effective option, but several council members told WLBT that council should consider the other vendors that originally responded to the RFP back in October 2021. After Richard’s, the second-highest rated vendor in that process was WM.
The mayor and council are expected to appear in Hinds County Chancery Court on Monday, where a judge is expected to decide whether the council, rather than Lumumba, can negotiate with a solid waste vendor, WLBT reported.
A spokesperson for WM told Waste Dive the company did not have more information to offer on whether WM was still interested in competing for a bid in Jackson or whether the city was legally able to reevaluate WM’s original bid from 2021.
WM had previously been Jackson’s residential hauler, but in autumn 2021 Lumumba nominated FCC Environmental Services to take over. The city council rejected the plan, allowing WM to continue service under an emergency arrangement.
When that emergency contract expired in April 2022, Richard’s Disposal began service under a separate emergency contract. Richard’s agreed to serve an estimated 150,000 residential customers, along with some government buildings, twice a week.
However, Lumumba had awarded Richard’s the contract by overriding a veto from council members, which led to a lawsuit over the mayor’s authority. The Mississippi Supreme Court resolved that lawsuit last month when its court ruling affirmed Lumumba cannot veto the Jackson City Council when it votes down a motion.
Jackson could also face fines of up to $75,000 a day from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for not picking up garbage, the Mississippi Free Press reported.