Ruling allows renewal of contracts

Special
Michael N. Annis: Judge ruled the city can't use park equipment that lacks safety certification.

A judge ruled Friday he wouldn't stop Augusta's procurement department from renewing several contracts, but he forbid the city from using park equipment it had purchased that lacked safety certification.

 

Judge Michael N. Annis also ruled both the Association for Fair Government and community activist Woody Merry have legal standing to challenge the city over certain practices in its procurement department.

The lawsuit was filed last month in Richmond County Superior Court as a mandamus, a civil action seeking a judge's ruling that a government must perform a duty with which it is charged.

Judge Annis agreed with city attorney Todd Boudreaux that the principle of separation of powers prohibited him from ruling on an issue of governmental discretion.

The association's attorney, Robert Mullins, argued that certain contracts awarded with one- or two-year options to renew should be opened for bidding. The original contracts were awarded while the city used a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, an action a federal judge found unconstitutional in March.

But Judge Annis said the decision was within the city's discretion in this case, and it was entitled to make its own decisions.

Mr. Mullins attacked the legality of two other contracts on a different front. He argued two contracts -- one for sewer solvent and the other for park equipment -- were improperly awarded to businesses that did not meet the bid specifications.

Mr. Boudreaux argued that the bid specifications Mr. Mullins pointed out were technicalities the city was entitled to wave.

Judge Annis saw it differently. He said he wouldn't issue a restraining order for the sewer solvent contract because it expires in about two weeks, but he said the safety of park equipment is an issue of public concern and the city is enjoined in that case.

Other issues remained undecided. The judge granted the city attorneys, three in court Friday, more time to respond because the initial petition has been amended twice. Judge Annis said, however, that the plaintiffs are entitled to a trial within 30 days.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.