The Jackson City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to censure Chief Administrative Officer Robert Blaine following an administrative error in a City contract. The mistake resulted in the City of Jackson paying a company $100,000 for work that was supposed to have cost $48,000. In addition to lodging the formal criticism against Blaine, which falls one step short of a vote of no confidence, the council voted to pursue litigation against the contractor, Expert Professional Solutions LLC, both to recover city funds and to investigate the work it carried out.
Members cast their votes during executive session at Tuesday's meeting. Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. asked for the votes to be read aloud during the open portion of the session.
Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks lauded the City's legal department, which is investigating the error, "for the work that they've done in representing both branches of this government, and looking out for the good of this city."
After praising the City's legal team, Mayor Lumumba voiced his support of Blaine. "I do want to make a statement that while I feel there are errors that need to be corrected... I wholeheartedly endorse the work of my CAO," Lumumba said. "All in all, he has been worth his weight in gold to the City, and I just want him to know how much I appreciate the effort and the sacrifice he makes on our behalf each and every day," he added.
'Weaponizing Our Transparency'
An ongoing issue with the municipal water-billing system, dating back to botched work under the Siemens contract beginning in 2013, resulted in a billing system that regularly crashed. Because the billing system lived on faulty physical servers, the City had been unable to bill customers for water-sewer service. Expert Professional Solutions, headed by Akil Bakari—who also goes by Willie Webster and W.