Political friction flares in Forest Park

Ward 2 Councilman Dabouze Antoine speaks to residents as Monday’s meeting comes to a close. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

Ward 2 Councilman Dabouze Antoine speaks to residents as Monday’s meeting comes to a close. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

FOREST PARK — Ongoing friction flared again Monday when Mayor David Lockhart came close to having Ward 2 Councilman Dabouze Antoine removed from the board meeting.

“Sergeant-at-arms, this man is out of order,” said Lockhart, motioning for a Forest Park police officer’s assistance and pointing to Antoine.

The officer stepped toward the dais but Lockhart stopped short of completing the command to remove Antoine.

The contentious interaction arose during a discussion of the city’s extension of its trash pick-up contract with Waste Management Inc. Antoine broached the same concern as he did March 3 about the city not bidding out the services.

“Why are we not looking for bids from other companies?” said Antoine. “Maybe we could get better bids.”

Lockhart said the answer is the same as it was March 3.

“As we discussed two weeks ago, it will cost $8,000 to $12,000 to put it out for bid,” he said. “Waste Management is almost assured to be the lowest bidder and we would no longer have the contract extension but a new contract, which will likely mean an increase in costs for residents and businesses.”

Antoine disagreed.

“That doesn’t make sense,” he said, getting support from Councilwoman Latresa Akins.

“I kinda agree with Mr. Antoine,” she said. “I think it should be put out for bids and we should have done a survey of residents to find out what they want.”

Councilwoman Linda Lord said saving residents money is a priority for the city.

“For sure, residents don’t want to pay more money,” she said.

Lockhart said Waste Management agreed to take out a clause allowing for an increase in rates due to inflation so he vetoed the March 3 vote approving the amendment extending services until 2019.

When Antoine tried to speak again, Lockhart told him he was out of order.

“My hand is up,” said Antoine.

“You’re not recognized,” Lockhart told him.

The discord between the two men over the contract began during the 6 p.m. work session. Antoine voiced surprise at learning Lockhart had discussions with Waste Management since March 3.

“So you went and negotiated this contract without us?” said Antoine. “I didn’t know about it.”

Lockhart denied the accusation and said Antoine “won’t take my calls.”

“You never called me,” Antoine said.

“Because you won’t take my calls,” said Lockhart.

Antoine took office Jan. 1, filling a seat that has been vacant since July 2011. He and Lockhart find themselves at odds with each other at least once during each bi-monthly meeting.

The clashes, which sometimes include Lockhart’s refusal to allow Antoine to address city officials from the dais, led to Antoine’s request to change the ordinance governing the privileges of council members during meetings.

Antoine got the city attorneys to craft the change and had it added to Monday’s agenda, where it was approved.

The exchange played out in front of residents attending the meeting, prompting Lord and Akins to apologize for the public display.

“We’ve got work to do,” said Akins.