Group to sue commissioner

CSRA Help founder Woody Merry says he will file suit against Commissioner Marion Williams this week for ethics violations and delinquent property taxes.

 

Mr. Merry held a news conference Monday to announce that the grass-roots citizens organization is going to court to force Augusta commissioners to act ethically and professionally at commission meetings.

"I'm sending a clear message to all commissioners, black and white," he said. "You're going to play nice, or you're going to deal with me and CSRA Help."

Mr. Merry said he would file against Mr. Williams and intends to get Commissioner Calvin Holland's attention, citing Mr. Holland's refusal to stop speaking during a meeting in which commissioners censured him for trying to get information from City Administrator Fred Russell's hard drive.

At that meeting, Mayor Deke Copenhaver tried to gavel Mr. Holland down, but Mr. Holland, who insisted he had done nothing wrong, told the mayor that he would have to get the marshals to drag him out and that he was going to continue to speak.

Mr. Merry contends that Mr. Williams violated ethics standards by calling Commissioner Joe Bowles "boy" at a recent meeting, and by not recusing himself during votes on a proposed drag strip from which his son-in-law stood to profit.

Also, Mr. Williams' delinquent 2006 property-tax bill for $2,468 is grounds for vacating his commission seat, according to Mr. Merry's attorney Robert Mullins.

State law requires public officials to swear they do not have any unaccounted-for public money due to the state or city. The state constitution states that no person is eligible to hold office if he or she has defaulted on any kind of county or municipal taxes, Mr. Mullins said.

When contacted Monday, Mr. Williams said he had no comment.

"He can do whatever he thinks he's got to do," he said.

The Augusta Commission is usually the first entity to address ethical violations, Mr. Mullins said.

"Since they have not addressed these ethical violations, we're proceeding under the other provisions, which give the municipal, magistrate and state court jurisdiction," he said.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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