Siemens lawsuit imminent?

By ANTHONY WARREN,

The city of Jackson appears poised to finally take legal action against Siemens.

At its meeting tomorrow, the city council will consider bringing on Lightfoot, Franklin and White LLC to “investigate and pursue claims and litigation against Siemens.”

The measure is being brought forth by Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who told reporters last week that the city was looking into suing the international firm.

The move comes more than a year after the council passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to sue Siemens, and about seven years after Siemens was brought on to completely overhaul the city’s water system.

Under terms of the mayor’s proposal, Lightfoot, Franklin and White would receive 33.3 percent of all damages recovered. However, if total expenses incurred during the investigation exceed $1 million, the firm will receive 40 percent of the net recovery.

Lightfoot is a law firm based in Birmingham, Ala.

Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote supports the proposal, saying the firm is working on a contingency basis, and that it’s “probably worthwhile” to see if the city has a case.

“There’s so much smoke around the Siemens contact. The project was such an (expensive) undertaking, we should see if there’s anything worth pursuing.”

Siemens was brought on in 2012, under former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., as part of a $91 million “energy performance contract.”

The contract ended up being around $90 million, with the city issuing nearly $90 million in bonds to pay for the work.

The work was sold as being “revenue-neutral,” meaning the city would be able to pay for it with savings generated from the improvements. The contract called for replacing the city’s existing analog meters with new electronic water meters, as well as installing a new billing system, that would make the billing department more accurate.

Work wrapped up in 2015. Instead of generating millions in savings, the water enterprise fund nearly went bankrupt last year as a result of lagging collections.

The council meeting is 10 a.m., Tuesday, May 14 at Jackson City Hall.

Officials with Siemens hadn't responded to the Sun's request for a comment.

This is a developing story.

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