Judge wants sworn answers from city

If current and former Augusta employees and officials won't swear they've answered questions about the city's purchasing practices truthfully, the city attorney must swear for them, the federal magistrate ruled Thursday.

 

The issue came to a head in a hearing in U.S. District Court as attorneys complained about each other's adherence to the rules.

The hearing concerned pretrial matters in the civil lawsuit filed by three private businesses and the Association for Fair Government. The lawsuit accuses the city and Procurement Director Geri Sams of rigging bids by selectively enforcing the rules governing how the city buys goods and services. The city denies any wrongdoing.

Andrew MacKenzie of the city's law department complained Thursday that city officials have repeatedly tried to cooperate with plaintiffs' attorney Robert Mullins.

Mr. Mullins said he sought a court order after hitting a brick wall with city attorneys.

He sought attorney fees associated with the motion to compel, but U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Leon Barfield refused, saying Mr. Mullins should have tried harder to settle at least some of the disputes.

But Judge Barfield agreed with the plaintiffs that a number of questions sent to city officials and employees were reasonable and should be answered.

For example, a question asking for all the documents associated with a particular bid -- all bidders' packages and their price tags, and all documentation on how the winner was selected and how any bidders were disqualified -- is proper, the judge said.

He agreed that Mr. Mullins should be allowed to depose six more potential witnesses, and he also granted the city's request to depose two more members of the Association for Fair Government.

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