Augusta's city attorney to resign; will get severance package

Augusta General Counsel Chiquita Johnson has signed an agreement to resign in exchange for a severance package, City Administrator Fred Russell confirmed.

 

She signed the paperwork around 4:30 p.m. today, and her resignation will be effective at 9 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

Mr. Russell said he would not provide a copy of the document until after he puts it before the Augusta Commission, which will likely vote to accept her resignation at Tuesday’s meeting. Under her contract, Ms. Johnson is entitled to six months’ pay if she’s terminated, and Mr. Russell would not say what she was offered beyond that. She earns $125,000 per year.

Several commissioners have raised questions about Ms. Johnson and the city's legal department in the past month. One issue was her department’s spending on a Sam’s Club card, detailed in a report by The Chronicle last week.

City commissioners, such as Joe Jackson, responded angrily when told Augusta's Law Department had run up nearly $5,000 on a Sam's Club account this year, with purchases that included silk trees, paintings and lots of snacks.

According to finance records from Jan. 1 to Dec. 16, reviewed by The Chronicle under an open records request, the $4,897 spent by Ms. Johnson's department was the highest debt incurred on any account except the sheriff's office's Criminal Investigation Division and the Recreation & Parks Department, which has multiple Sam's Club cards to buy concessions for sale.

While CID employees purchased equipment that included cameras and video recorders, Ms. Johnson's Sam's Club card was used to buy $673 in silk trees, $641 in office fans and air-sanitizing systems, $254 in Keurig coffee makers, a $219 water cooler appliance and a $197 painting. It was also used for candy, juices, sodas, coffee cake and office supplies, such as pens, file folders and a $243 shredder.

Mr. Jackson told the newspaper he was livid that a law department with a small staff was spending thousands of dollars on amenities while the rest of the city was pinching pennies. He said he has been more upset, though, to learn through his own research that Ms. Johnson has spent more than $60,000 for Atlanta law firm Freeman, Mathis & Gary to handle airport matters when the budget for that was $18,000.

Ms. Johnson did not return a call seeking comment about her office expenses.

 

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