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Meeting solution is found

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Lady Justice might not have to share space with the Augusta Commission and City Administrator Fred Russell, after all.

A simple fix, requiring only six votes, is hoped to end weeks of commission wrangling over changing the city charter's requirement that the commission and administrator conduct business "at the courthouse."

Rather than amending the charter -- an effort that's repeatedly failed to garner the eight commission votes it needs to pass -- simply designating the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building as a courthouse annex appears to be "a viable solution," Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said.

"It will keep the commission chamber where it is, and (the municipal building) will be able to handle any overflow traffic for court cases, so I think it all makes sense," Bowles said.

For nearly a decade, most Columbia County courts have occupied a courthouse annex in Evans, while the suburban county maintains the state's oldest continuously operating courthouse, an 1856 structure in Appling, Deputy Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson said.

"We have committee meetings there periodically, and they do hold court there," Johnson said. "The law does say that a judge must have one session at the county courthouse each year."

Before completion of Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse, Augusta long spread its court functions across several buildings, including the municipal building, the Joint Law Enforcement Center and Juvenile Court, held in a former federal building at 971 Broad St.

Senior Augusta staff attorney Wayne Brown said he had been asked whether the commission could legally designate or annex the municipal building or others "into the courthouse system," and his answer was yes.

"They do have the authority to designate the municipal building to the courthouse, as part of their right and their duty under state law to erect, repair, furnish and maintain the courthouses of this jurisdiction," Brown said.

Power to designate such a building is given to the commission by state law and does not require an amendment to the city charter, Brown said.

The simplicity of the solution might lend credence to arguments posed by several commissioners about why the city charter must be amended to change the meeting place.

The proposed charter amendment, offered by general counsel Andrew MacKenzie as the only available solution, has failed, 6-3, three times.

A commissioner who accused MacKenzie of trying to slip "unlimited authority" to the administrator in the charter amendment, however, remained skeptical of the easy fix, insisting a simple amendment to the city code would have achieved the same result all along.

"They're trying to save face, because they knew all along that it wasn't going to be necessary for us to meet at the judicial center," said Bill Lockett, of District 5. "We're in violation on so many different things that are much greater than where the commission is going to meet."

Comments (26) Add comment
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Nightwing
0
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Nightwing 05/27/11 - 07:23 pm
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Sounds like a plan.

Sounds like a plan.

WW1949
19
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WW1949 05/27/11 - 07:53 pm
0
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At last but who really

At last but who really cares..Just do the job you were elected to do.

OhWell
326
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OhWell 05/27/11 - 08:51 pm
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It won't be easy, somebody

It won't be easy, somebody will complicate it.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 05/27/11 - 09:02 pm
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This is dumb. The commission

This is dumb.

The commission has been violating its charter by not meeting at the "courthouse" for weeks now.

If they can intentionally and arrogantly violate the charter week in and week out, then why change anything at all?

I still say that everything they have done since the new courthouse has opened is null and void for being in violation of the charter. Did you lose a bid? Get turned down for a liquor license? Just not like a vote they took? Challenge it in court.

WoodyKaminer
2
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WoodyKaminer 05/27/11 - 10:11 pm
0
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I wonder what it would take

I wonder what it would take to make Bill Lockett and his 3 amigos happy? Those guys couldnt agree on something if they only had 1 option to chose from! Waste of time, air, and money!!!

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 05/27/11 - 10:39 pm
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I heard this idea from a

I heard this idea from a judge a few weeks ago... happen to work on the good judge's car from time to time :)

Asitisinaug
3
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Asitisinaug 05/28/11 - 03:54 am
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How much did this cost us in

How much did this cost us in wasted legal fees, opinions and time....

We are fulroughing people, lack funding for public safety and have major problems in our city yet THIS has been news and conversation for 6 weeks or more.

These 3 ridiculous commissioners should be billed for all expenses and need to be removed from office.

Asitisinaug
3
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Asitisinaug 05/28/11 - 03:55 am
0
0
Insider information, all they

Insider information, all they have to do if any of your suggestions were taken would be to ratify ALL decisions made over the past 6 weeks.

We have enough problems, lets not bring up new ones for them to argure about.

pointstoponder
609
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pointstoponder 05/28/11 - 07:33 am
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Don't be surprised when the

Don't be surprised when the courts begin a gradual retaking of the MB as their space "needs" increase.

Riverman1
93793
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Riverman1 05/28/11 - 07:33 am
0
0
That'll teach Andrew

That'll teach Andrew MacKenzie to take time off for the birth of his first child. He's got the black commissioners firing him and Jerry Brigham, too. Congrats on the birth of your child, Mr. MacKenzie. Maybe you should have named him after Bill Lockett.

Little Lamb
49097
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Little Lamb 05/28/11 - 08:53 am
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Susan McCord wrote: The

Susan McCord wrote:

The simplicity of the solution might lend credence to arguments posed by several commissioners about why the city charter must be amended to change the meeting place. The proposed charter amendment, offered by general counsel Andrew MacKenzie as the only available solution, has failed, 6-3, three times.

Here we see the dull thinking of city attorney Andrew MacKenzie. He is totally non-creative. He also was condescending to the wishes of some of the commissioners when they asked him for a simple, one-sentence motion that they could vote on. MacKenzie kept on submitting convoluted, tricky motions that bamboozled Lockett, Johnson, and Mason.

I still have to wonder why Mssrs. Lockett, Johnson and Mason could not have written the one-sentence motion for themselves?

It's time to fire MacKenzie along with fellow slow thinker Fred (What, me worry?) Russell.

seenitB4
97634
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seenitB4 05/28/11 - 08:54 am
0
0
Wow.....now maybe we can get

Wow.....now maybe we can get on with the real problems!

follower
92
Points
follower 05/28/11 - 09:45 am
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Great job Augusta commision;

Great job Augusta commision; nothing like arguing over who's going to steer the ship when it's sinking.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 05/28/11 - 11:22 am
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The problem: The commission

The problem: The commission is meeting in violation of its charter.

The solution: The commission is going to continue meeting in violation of its charter until it comes up with a solution.

Analogy: Your honor, I admit beating my child with a baseball bat is wrong, but I'm going to continue doing it until I find a better way of disciplining her.

joebowles
104
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joebowles 05/28/11 - 04:42 pm
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Insider, you obviously have

Insider, you obviously have never read the charter. It states that we will have the 1st meeting of the month at the courthouse. we held us 1st meeting this month before the other courthouse was dedicated. You can keep spreading your lies and untruths, while some of us try and come up with solutions to our deficit you can keep up with your lies and obstacles to solutions!

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 05/28/11 - 05:03 pm
0
0
Sounds like a pretty simple

Sounds like a pretty simple solution that the in-house law department couldn't think of. I don't always agree with Jerry Brigham, but he is 100% on point when he says that we need to reevaluate the effectiveness of an in-house legal department. With Dumb (Mackenzie) and Dumber (Brown) running things at the law dept expect more of this type of thing. In the end, it seems Mr Lockett was right, that a charter change was not necessary to keep meetings in the municipal bldg.. this was simple problem that begged for a simple solution and our in-house law department couldn't think of one.

double_standard
166
Points
double_standard 05/29/11 - 12:17 am
0
0
So in the end Lockett was

So in the end Lockett was right the other 3 may have followed but I wonder why much is never made about Joe no clue Jackson and Matt am I supposed to be here Atiken always falling in line. No original ideas no solutions. But this is the chronicle maybe the new spirit will explore. Gulifoyle your new maybe u might show some backbone.

ECDanes
1
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ECDanes 05/29/11 - 01:51 am
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I've heard that the charter

I've heard that the charter amendment to strike "at the courthouse" written by chief counsel Mackenzie, was extremely convoluted in its wording. I mean I know lawyers like to talk in circles to say something simple, but really, how difficult was it to strike "at the courthouse" from the charter? The fear that the 3 commissioners had was the legal department was using this amendment to sneak in a lot of new authorities for the administrator. I agree with others, this should have been a simple matter but was made unduly difficult, and I think the law dept deserves much of the blame for that. And why couldn't the law department have come up with this easy fix of just making the municipal bldg a court annex? Who actually did make this suggestion? Perhaps the city should make them general counsel.

ECDanes
1
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ECDanes 05/29/11 - 02:16 am
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Mr Aitken may be a nice guy,

Mr Aitken may be a nice guy, but hasn't he been on the commission for 1 and a half years now? What issue has Mr Aitken taken a leadership role on? Or what issue can one really identify Mr Aitken with at all? Does he ever ask a question? Make a motion? Introduce anything? Maybe we are just not hearing about it? I know his election to the commission was integral in getting the TEE center passed. Maybe the 1st District may want to find a more vocal representative in the next election.

Brad Owens
4906
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Brad Owens 05/29/11 - 03:47 am
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0
I was against an 'in-house'

I was against an 'in-house' legal department because it would take away the best weapon we have for keeping the Commission in line, a County Attorney.

There was no reason, other than the color of Steve Shephard's skin, to get rid of the last county attorney. And what happened to all that extra savings we were supposed to see from that change? Oh right, it was spent on 'outside' counsel (from Atlants to add insult to injury) to support the 'in-house' lawyers.

And don't forget Chiquita Johnson Emerydan, she was the best of them all so far.

And as far as Matt Aitken goes, he got the TEE done and done quick didn't he? I mean as soon as he was elected the deal was cut before he was sworn in and seated. I wonder whay that was?

Anyway, you don't have to be loud to be effective, but with so much that needs to be done in the 1st District, shouldn't we hear some noise?

Brad

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 05/29/11 - 03:45 am
0
0
Aitken certainly doesn't rock

Aitken certainly doesn't rock any boats. Sometimes that's good.. but sometimes you need a strong advocate representing the regular people, and not just the "movers and shakers" who donate to campaigns. Whereas the last thing Dist 1 needs is a loudmouth like Marion Williams, perhaps it does need someone who knows when to be more vocal at the right times.

Brad Owens
4906
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Brad Owens 05/29/11 - 03:49 am
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Emerydan, How about someone

Emerydan,

How about someone who jumps on the problems and works their butt off to fix them, loud or not?

Brad

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 05/29/11 - 03:54 am
0
0
yes, loud is rarely

yes, loud is rarely effective,,, but asking the right questions, making motions when appropriate, and proposing solutions is what is needed and you don't have to be loud to do that. I don't see much of this coming from Aitken. It seems to be more about just "falling in line" and taking cues from the other 5 commissioners on how to vote.

Little Lamb
49097
Points
Little Lamb 05/29/11 - 07:15 am
0
0
I seem to recall a few votes

I seem to recall a few votes when Aitken voted with Mason & crowd (thus against Bowles & crowd).

Little Lamb
49097
Points
Little Lamb 05/29/11 - 07:22 am
0
0
From the pet peeve patrol — I

From the pet peeve patrol — I hope the Chronicle will soon end the following political correctness in the interest of brevity: Susan McCord wrote

Before completion of Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse, Augusta long spread its court functions across several buildings, including the municipal building, the Joint Law Enforcement Center and Juvenile Court, held in a former federal building at 971 Broad St.

Can't we just use the term the courthouse instead of that mouthful? Or we can use Riverman's suggested moniker: Ruff House :-)

Riverman1
93793
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Riverman1 05/29/11 - 08:06 am
0
0
LL, good point. That long

LL, good point. That long name, Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse, was the official designation because of the racial politics of the board. I mean we all know it's the Richmond County's Judicial Center.

That long name is going to last about a month in the public's mind. It will forever be known as the Ruff House by those people unfortunate enough to be dragged into court and by the lawyers. The press probably can't use Ruff House, but that's what the name will be when spoken.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 05/29/11 - 10:08 am
0
0
what was the problem with

what was the problem with naming the building after Ruffin in the first place? The whole detention center is named after Charlie Webster (who is still alive btw).. Why in this case do we need a generic name? The judicial center is a courts facility.. why not name it after a trailblazing local judge and call it that? The Ruffin Judicial Center? That's not such a mouthful.

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