City cites harassment, malice in counterclaim

The city of Augusta contends the Association for Fair Government is not only harassing the Procurement Department but also acting with malice.

 

City attorneys filed a counterclaim Wednesday seeking damages and attorneys fees in the Richmond County Superior Court lawsuit filed by the group against the city.

In addition, this week one of the city's attorneys accused the association's lawyer, Robert Mullins, of violating the attorneys' ethical rules because he wanted to speak at this month's city commission meeting.

Mr. Mullins said Thursday that both moves appear to be desperate acts aimed at muzzling any criticism of the Procurement Department.

The Association for Fair Government filed suit this year alleging efforts to view public documents at the Procurement Department have been blocked. The Augusta Chronicle joined the lawsuit with allegations of unreasonable delays, cost and restrictions to procurement of public documents. The association later added allegations that documents posted on the commission's Web site were altered.

The attorneys on both sides signed an agreement that the Web site problem was a computer glitch that would be corrected. The city also posted a disclaimer on the site about the accuracy. All official commission records are kept in hard copies by the commission clerk.

Regardless of the agreement, the city's counterclaim against the association claims the group has acted in bad faith with malicious intent. The city contends the association has acted to harm the city, entitling the city to punitive damages.

The letter to Mr. Mullins from Todd Boudreaux on behalf of the city cites the State Bar of Georgia's ethics rule that prohibits an attorney from communicating with an opposing attorney's clients without his permission.

But the rule also contains a provision that specifically exempts communication when the controversy is with a government entity. In those cases, communications about the controversy is permitted with government officials.