Jackson councilman doubles down on claims contractor tried to bribe him to support trash contract
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A Jackson city councilman says a contractor did attempt to bribe him to support a waste-hauling contract, although it was not for the National Waste Contract that is alleged in the slander suit against him.
Friday, Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks held a press conference to answer the charges brought against him in a lawsuit by Pastor Dwayne Pickett.
Pickett, who is a principal with National Waste United, said Banks slandered him by telling others that Pickett tried to bribe him to support bringing on National Waste under the mayor’s emergency order.
Banks doubled down on claims that Pickett tried to bribe him, but the bribe was not for National Waste, but for the councilman’s support FCC Environmental Services Contract.
“In this lawsuit, Pickett accused me of defaming him by telling people he offered to bribe me in the amount of $50,000 for his support of the National Waste United bid, to service the city’s garbage contract by way of the mayor’s emergency declaration,” Banks said. “That is what is alleged in the complaint, but that is absolutely not what happened.”
“Pickett tried to bribe me into voting for the FCC contract the second time it was brought before the council. I do not know why he has the facts wrong, but let me clear: the offer was to bribe me for the FCC contract.”
TreMarcus Rosemon, an attorney for Pickett, provided this statement: “My client, Mr. Pickett, has followed the legal process by filing a complaint because he was wronged. My client is not interested in trying this case in the media,” he said. “My client will try this in the court of law, where justice and truth will prevail.”
The mayor twice brought forward a recommendation to hire FCC in August, and twice the council voted down it down. Both times Banks voted to reject the deal.
Banks and Council President Virgi Lindsay, who voted in favor of FCC, were both named in the suit. The two are being sued for slander per se, intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, and other counts.
The complaint alleges that Banks told Lindsay and others that Pickett had offered the councilman money in exchange for Banks’ support of the National Waste United contract, which Pickett claims is false. The suit says Lindsay, in her capacity as council president, relayed that message to the mayor’s office.
Pickett also alleges that Banks admitted to receiving “perks” from Waste Management, who had a contract to pick up waste for the city at the time the two talked, and told Pickett “that if a new vendor could not provide him similar perks, then he would not be interested in a new vendor obtaining the solid waste contract.”
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has also intimated that Waste Management has had “cozy relationships” with council members, although he did not say which council members and what those relationships entailed.
Banks did not address Pickett’s or the mayor’s allegations in his prepared statement but said during follow-up questioning that the mayor’s allegations were not true. He also said that claims Pickett, who pastors New Jerusalem Church, helped his church in exchange for the vote were also untrue.
“That happened some time back, and he helped my church with $1,200,” he said. “That was all. That has nothing to do (with this). We’ve been friends about 20 years.”
Instead, he said Pickett’s complaint is part of an ongoing campaign to distance himself from the bribery accusations. The complaint was filed in Hinds County Circuit Court.
“He is still engaged in an attack on my credibility,” Banks said, standing in council chambers. “He knows exactly what he did and I know the legal system will bear out what he did. I know I have not done anything illegal.”
Banks claims he and Pickett talked on August 17 when said he would give him $50,000 for his support.
The FCC contract previously failed on a 3-4 decision. Had Banks switched his vote, the measure would have passed.
“I was stunned by the suggestion. I told by Dwayne Pickett I could not and would not be induced to commit this crime and ended the conversation,” he said. “Within 15 minutes, I shared this with City Attorney Monica Allen. I (also) shared my concerns with the council president, who I generally understand conveyed her concerns to the office of the mayor.”
Allen recently stepped down as city attorney. We reached out to Allen regarding this claim and are waiting to hear back.
FCC was voted down a second time on August 19. The mayor declared a state of emergency on September 17, saying that talks to re-hire Waste Management had broken down. That same day, the mayor signed an emergency contract with National Waste. Documents provided by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website show that the company was not officially formed until September 20.
Banks said Pickett had worked out a deal with FCC to help on FCC’s build-out. The company, which is based in Spain and has offices in Texas and Florida, would have built a new headquarters and phone center to oversee Jackson operations.
Firm officials said they had a location for the call center picked out at an earlier town hall sponsored by the mayor and Ward Four Councilman Brian Grizzell.
“It was a deal worked out with somebody,” Banks said.
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