Editor's note: This story has been updated.
After issues surrounding the trash disposal contract were brought to the council at the Feb. 4 meeting, the Oak Grove Committee of the Whole held a special meeting Thursday to discuss renewing a contract with Bobby Outlaw Disposal Service.
After a lengthy meeting focused on getting to the bottom of how the issues developed, the committee agreed to have a new ordinance drafted for an interim solid waste enterprise contract. It will be presented for consideration at the next city council meeting.
During the last regular council meeting, Outlaw Disposal owner Wendell Outlaw accused the mayor of obstruction as he continues seeing delays in receiving the new contract the council approved almost six months ago.
During that meeting, the council was informed that the ordinance and contract they approved was not done right and needed amending.
On Sept. 3, the council voted to allow Outlaw Disposal to continue its services for the next 20 years. Oak Grove Mayor Theresa Jarvis stated during that meeting that the ordinance only allowed for a five year contract, rather than 20.
On Thursday, Oak Grove City Attorney Mark Gilbert explained after doing research that there is no issue with the ordinance and that it did not need to be amended.
Gilbert also explained that an interim 18-month contract that was given to Outlaw Disposal — so the company could continue picking up trash as the city works on the new contract — was never legally approved as it was never brought before the council.
The interim contract should have been presented to the council for a vote for approval and Gilbert said that it was his mistake.
“I should’ve (brought the interim contract before the council),” Gilbert said. “I finished with Mr. Outlaw, I moved on to other things and I should’ve. That’s all there is to it.”
Gilbert and Oak Grove City Clerk Angela Comperry clarified that the application for the litter abatement grant the city applies for annually was due Oct. 31, which was the same day Gilbert had discussed with Outlaw the concerns Outlaw had with the new contract, not the interim contract.
During the Feb. 4 council meeting, Outlaw said he had then spoken over the phone with both Jarvis and Gilbert during a conference call Jan. 24 after Outlaw shared his concerns of not yet receiving a new contract and concerns he had with the new contract.
As previously reported in the New Era, Gilbert explained to the council at a previous meeting that all franchise contracts must be put up to a bid process 18 months prior to the expiration of the previous contract. The city had not properly put the contract out to bid for years until Gilbert discovered the error soon after he began his tenure as the city's attorney.
Due to that constitutional requirement, the new contract that the council approved in September could not go into effect until December 2020, when the interim contract expires. Outlaw said Thursday that he was never made aware about the interim contract.
Committee member Kisha Mische-Jeffrey asked what Gilbert's legal advice was moving forward to remedy the situation regarding the contracts.
“(We should) draft up the agreement for the interim contract and get that squared away. Get the interim contract approved by the council. That way, we’ll have something squared away until December,” Gilbert said. “Then, we’ll draft up the contract for December and beyond.”
The committee then agreed to have Gilbert and the executive branch draft the interim contract to be presented to the council at the next council meeting on Tuesday.
Also, during the meeting, the committee discussed potentially conducting an official investigation into the matter of how the mistakes were made regarding the contracts. The committee discussed acquiring affidavits for everyone that was involved in the bidding and contract process up to this point as well as hiring outside council to assist in the investigation.
“I think we need to send this back to regular council and launch an official investigation,” Jeffrey said. “My recommendation is that we seek outside council and this no offense to you Mark (Gilbert), but perhaps legal advice that specializes in contractual agreements."
The committee then agreed that at the next city council, the council would likely go into an executive session to discuss if all members wanted to move forward with launching an investigation.