City says law requires garbage hauling bids be kept secret
NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — Officials in a southwest Mississippi city say a new part of state law means they don’t have to publicly release the price of garbage hauling bids.
The Natchez Democrat reports that Natchez aldermen are only disclosing the names of the six bidders and no other information.
City Attorney Bob Latham tells the newspaper that a new law that took effect Jan. 1 bans the public disclosure of prices.
However, Mississippi Press Association lawyer Leonard Van Slyke tells the newspaper that the legal passage cited doesn’t even apply to cities, but only state agencies.
Latham says the law lists the move as a “best practice” and says disclosing prices could hamper the city’s ability to negotiate a better price.
“Why wouldn’t it be good for a local government if it will be good for a state agency?” Latham asked. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
He said members of the public can pass judgment once the decision has been made and proposals are released.
“If the public had a right to voice an opinion (on the selection process), I could see why you would have a good argument: ‘Give us the info so the public can come in a make comments’ . But they don’t have a right,” Latham said.
He said the company offering the best service at the best price should get the deal, and pledged to prevent any underhanded dealings from affecting the selection.
Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he is trying to be as transparent as possible through this process, and had hoped to put together a committee to advise the city on which hauler should get the contract.
“Personally, I love the idea of using lay people in the community with expertise to go through it,” Grennell said. “But according to city attorney based on the state law, I don’t know if I can do it that way.”
Information from: The Natchez Democrat, http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/