Augusta’s entire legal staff was booted from a closed-door meeting of the mayor and Augusta Commission on Thursday, but the commission took little other action in its regular meeting.
The hourlong closed session “dealt with the general counsel, and they were his subordinates and they should not have been privy to the discussion that we had, along with the administrator. He was also asked to leave,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said.
With staff out of the room, the commission had local attorney Harry Revell guide them instead.
“We needed someone that was going to present an unbiased opinion and give us some direction as to how to proceed,” Lockett said.
Leaving the session, however, the commission took no action. In the regular commission meeting, Lockett motioned to delete his request for a “no confidence” vote on General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie from the agenda. The motion passed 9-0, with Commissioner Joe Jackson out.
“I actually know now what it’s like to wait until legal is over,” MacKenzie said after the meeting.
Pending litigation on several large city service contracts saw no discussion in the open session Thursday.
That afternoon, city transit operator Mobility Transit filed a request for a restraining order in U.S. District Court to prevent the city from awarding a new transit bid to McDonald Transit of Fort Worth, Texas. Commissioners declined to add McDonald’s bid award to the meeting agenda.
There was no discussion about a court order Wednesday from Superior Court Judge David Roper, who blistered the city’s procurement team for its handling of a multimillion-dollar health insurance bid award. He ordered the city to re-bid the insurance contract by the end of the year.
Commissioner Donnie Smith said that while the commission in part is “hamstrung by what our predecessors did,” it is “going to make a conscious effort to look at all those contracts in a different light. It has certainly mushroomed up at one time.”
MacKenzie said that with large contracts, “a baseline level of litigation” isn’t unusual. “There’s just a lot of money involved.”
At the start of Thursday’s regular meeting, businessman A.K. Hasan rebuked Turner Construction, the construction manager for $40 million in renovations ongoing at the municipal building, for its handling of a pre-bid conference with subcontractors at which Hasan said he was discouraged from bidding.
Commissioner Alvin Mason, who works in federal contracts at Fort Gordon, said “dealing with a potential subcontractor then we’re out of bounds.” Commissioner Bill Fennoy said he expected “unfairness” to “be brought to this commission’s attention.”