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Judge: Augusta Commission did not violate charter

Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 9:14 PM
Last updated Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 12:14 AM
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 While they'd heard nearly as much in court, plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Augusta's mayor, city administrator and six white commissioners received their written answer Wednesday in an order filed by Superior Court Judge David Roper.

The Baptist Ministers Conference of Augusta, Metro Courier Publisher Barbara Gordon, three black ministers and a Paine College professor sued the city in April, alleging that actions recently taken by the commission to adopt a new personnel manual and increase the administrator's authority were an unlawful delegation of Mayor Deke Copenhaver's authority and an illegal change in the city's form of government.

Roper detailed his ruling in the city's favor at the end of a Nov. 17 court hearing, but the plaintiffs said they'd wait to decide whether to appeal until the judge's written order was released.

The only plaintiff to respond to a request for comment, Gordon, said late Wednesday that the group hadn't really lost because its lawyer, Serena Sparks, had asked the wrong questions.

"Our premise was something that the lawyer did not fight," Gordon said. "Lay people tend to follow the advice of experts. I'm not one of those lay people."

Gordon said the question remains whether six of 10 commission votes were sufficient to approve the changes. The consolidated government's charter requires a supermajority of eight commission votes to pass certain sweeping measures.

Roper's written order states that Augusta's mayor doesn't have the power to hire and fire employees. Rather, he wrote, the commission does, and it successfully delegated most of that authority to the administrator years ago, though not without limits. The powers spelled out in the city's new personnel manual and corresponding ordinances closely resembled existing city codes and aren't unreasonable, Roper wrote.

Without speaking to the number of commission votes required, the judge wrote that the changes don't need to comply with provisions for amending the city's charter because they are not charter amendments. Any actual change in the city's form of government would require an act of the Legislature, he said.

"Neither the ordinance adopting the personnel manual nor the ordinances amending City Code 1-2-36 affects any elective office (i.e., the mayor), nor does either affect the composition or form of the city's government," Roper wrote.

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Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/29/11 - 08:44 am
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So now plaintiff Barbara

So now plaintiff Barbara Gordon is claiming ineffective counsel? That her counsel “asked the wrong questions”? That may be true, but let me tell you, Toots, you still lost your lawsuit. My prediction is that your fellow co-plaintiffs will tuck their tails between their legs and whimper their way back home. There will be no appeal.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/29/11 - 08:48 am
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And some of y'all thought

And some of y'all thought David Roper wouldn't know how to act like a judge.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/29/11 - 10:00 am
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Correctomundo, Riverman. I

Correctomundo, Riverman. I just got through reading Roper's final judgment in the .pdf document at the link furnished above. Some I skimmed, some I read in depth. Roper provided powerful logic and clear writing. This document should be taught in political science classes at ASU.

The first thing that the plaintiffs asked for is so ludicrous it should have been laughed out of court. But Roper was courteous and went through the reasons why the mayor of the consolidated government has never had hiring and firing powers. The most important thing for the plaintiffs to choke on is the fact that there are no inherent powers of government or of government officials. This is the United States of America, where we believe that powers of government are derived from the people and not inherent like some divine right of kings. The plaintiffs (i.e., these black ministers) seem to like the idea of divine right of kings. Maybe it reminds them of how they would like to be treated by their congregations. I don't know.

It sounds dangerous to me. It sounds like where our country is headed under the current national regime.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/29/11 - 10:11 am
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The second thing the

The second thing the plaintiffs asked for wilted under the light of scrutiny as well. Roper clarified for them that the City Charter grants hiring and firing power of city employees to the Commission. He further reasons that there is no violation of the Charter for the Commission to delegate said powers to someone they designate. There are too many precedents all over the state where this is done. Roper cited numerous court decisions in his judgment.

Now, I remind readers here that I opposed the delegation of the sweeping powers to Fred (What, me worry?) Russell in the new Policies & Personnel manual earlier this year. Nevertheless, I never maintained that it was illegal for the Commission to do that delegating. Augusta-Richmond County consolidated government was created with a "weak-Mayor, strong-Commission" structure. That's the way it will likely stand for the rest of my lifetime. The structure of government should be changed by the people through laws or revolutions — not by some court. And the Black Ministers and Barbara Gordon need to learn that.

BennyS
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BennyS 12/29/11 - 10:23 am
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This black vs.white and white

This black vs.white and white vs. black has got to stop. Get over it! The city of Augusta will never acheive anything if this crap don't come to an end. The slavery days have been gone, my family didn't own slaves but yet worked right beside them in the cotton fields. We're not asking for a free ride, why should you.

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/29/11 - 02:04 pm
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'And some of y'all thought

'And some of y'all thought David Roper wouldn't know how to act like a judge.'
Some still think that.
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