Ministers' suit against reorganization faces obstacles

Three or four Augusta commissioners who oppose the ongoing restructuring of city government were bolstered by an April 1 lawsuit by a black ministers' group alleging the rest of the commission is violating the Georgia constitution by changing the city's form of government without approval by a two-thirds majority.


But the suit, expected also to settle a controversy over whether Mayor Deke Copenhaver actually has the power to hire and fire personnel, is far from being decided.

In a motion to dismiss the ministers' suit filed in Superior Court last week, city lawyers pointed out several errors that Baptist Ministers Conference attorney Serena Sparks probably will have to correct before the case proceeds.

Among them, the city code section plaintiffs are challenging as unconstitutional hadn't actually been adopted at the time the suit was filed, a brief in support of the motion states.

Code section 1-2-36, specifying duties of the administrator to approve reorganizations and pay adjustments up to a certain amount, wasn't voted on until April 19, and required a second reading and second vote two weeks later, the brief points out.

In addition, plaintiff The Baptist Ministers Conference of Augusta, Georgia Inc. is no longer incorporated, having failed to pay an annual fee to the Georgia Secretary of State's office, the brief contends.

On today's administrative services committee agenda are a series of 10 amendments to the Augusta Code that reflect changes detailed in the restructuring plan.

The proposed amendments reassign responsibility for cemeteries, streetlights and road maintenance, licensing for events at city buildings and other functions to different departments.