An Augusta Commission committee declined Monday to recommend taking the license of a Deans Bridge Road club where Ashley Brown was fatally wounded Sept. 15, despite urging by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and the victim’s family members.
Brown, 27, killed when 19-year-old Davachous Murphy and others fired guns into Club 5150 after Murphy was escorted out for fighting, might have lived if the juveniles hadn’t been allowed to enter the 21-and-over club and drink, sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Elim said.
Murphy and Robert Wright, 24, are charged in Brown’s death.
But club co-owner Tavaras Jones told commissioners Monday he didn’t know juveniles were inside.
“There is no proof,” said Jones, whom Commissioner Bill Lockett recalled as his former business law student at George P. Butler High School. Lockett told Jones he’ll check in at the club.
The location has a history of violence. Only four months before co-owner Chartara Newman paid $4,345 for an alcohol license, Club Night Life was catering to teens at the same location, 2864 Deans Bridge Road. Club Night Life’s license was revoked after six people were injured by gunfire in October 2010.
“Had those minors not been allowed into the club, (Brown) would still be here today,” said Lakeisha Lee, Brown’s sister. Her sister was an innocent bystander “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.
Augusta’s ordinances do not require armed security with arrest powers at nightclubs, said inspector Larry Harris, who oversees license compliance.
“There should be some punishment,” Harris said. “Whether we should give them the death penalty, I don’t know.”
Brown’s brother Cameron Bates disagreed.
“I feel like they should have the death sentence because my sister had the death sentence,” he said.
Jones added that he’d tried to get officers to work special details at the club, but a Richmond County marshal had quit showing up. Elim said officers were afraid of violence at the location.
The decision on Club 5150 moves forward to the full commission with no recommendation.
In other business Monday, the commission agreed during a brief called legal meeting to rehire former Human Resources Director Rod Powell as a consultant at $50 an hour. According to Powell’s professional services agreement, obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, his duties are limited to compensation issues and surveys and firefighter promotional exams. Powell and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles previously told the newspaper that Powell would help with outsourcing human resource job functions. Commissioners Alvin Mason, Bill Lockett and J.R. Hatney opposed the move.
Lockett agreed to withdraw his Administrative Services Committee agenda item requesting the Georgia Attorney General give an opinion on the definition of “ordinary business” as specified in Augusta’s charter as requiring only six votes to pass. Lockett said he agreed with General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie that the question should await a written order from Superior Court Judge David Roper in the lawsuit filed against the city by The Baptist Ministers Conference of Augusta. MacKenzie said the city won’t be sure whether the order addresses the question until the order is filed. Roper ruled in the city’s favor in court Nov. 17.
Lockett reiterated a lengthy, impassioned call for an external forensic audit of numerous city deals, including privatization of the golf course and bus service. Also part of his list for extra review was a deal he said had “outside attorneys doing real estate transactions who were representing both sides,” and Augusta purchased property at the corner of 13th and Reynolds streets for more than $100,000 to trade for Sen. Bill Jackson’s corner hotdog stand, now site of the Trade, Exhibit and Event Center parking deck. Lockett’s request failed 2-1 in the Administrative Services Committee.
The panel also took no action on a recommendation by Deputy City Administrator Bill Shanahan to impose a 5 percent surcharge on tobacco users covered by the city’s health plan. The charge would amount to a $10 increase for individuals up to a $32 increase for families, but Mason and Hatney questioned why employees with other bad habits such as overeating and drinking alcohol weren’t also being targeted.