Court: Mississippi mayor wrong in veto of disputed contract
Published 5:16 pm Thursday, March 9, 2023
The mayor of Mississippi’s capital city acted improperly when he tried to veto a garbage-collection contract the city council had rejected, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In an 8-0 decision, the high court agreed with a judge’s ruling last year in a dispute between Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and the Jackson City Council. Justices wrote that “a mayor may only veto an ordinance that has been adopted by the City Council.”
“The mayor was not legally entitled to veto a non-action or negative vote of the city council,” justices wrote.
The council voted multiple times against giving the garbage contract to Richard’s Disposal. Lumumba said the New Orleans-based company submitted the lowest and best bid. Council members said they thought the company that previously had Jackson’s garbage contract, Houston-based Waste Management Inc., had a better bid.
The council sued Lumumba after he issued an emergency order to award the contract to Richard’s.
The garbage dispute overlapped with Jackson’s longstanding problems with its water system, which nearly collapsed in August and September.
Jessica Ayers, an attorney for Lumumba, argued the mayor had the power to veto the council’s negative vote. Judge Larry Roberts wrote in his July 7 ruling that there was nothing for the mayor to veto.
“The council didn’t pass affirmatively the matter. It rejected it,” wrote Roberts, a retired Mississippi Court of Appeals judge who was appointed to hear the case after Hinds County chancery judges recused themselves.
Despite the legal dispute over the veto, Richard’s Disposal has been collecting garbage in Jackson since Lumumba awarded the emergency contract. The company worked several months without receiving money, then filed a lawsuit in July to demand compensation. In October, the company said it would stop picking up garbage unless it received money, and the city then agreed to make payments.