Ministers group bashes Augusta government change

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit over Augusta’s reorganization plan held a rally Tuesday at Antioch Baptist Church.

With about 200 people in attendance, members of The Baptist Ministers Conference of Augusta, along with Metro Courier publisher Barbara Gordon, railed against the changes.

They accused Augusta Commission members Corey Johnson and Matt Aitken of collusion when last week, Johnson voted against, and Aitken voted in favor of, firing City Administrator Fred Russell. That vote failed 6-4.

Gordon compared the group’s dealings with city government to that of black South Africans under apartheid.

The plaintiffs’ April 1 lawsuit alleges the restructuring violates the city charter because it was passed without a two-thirds majority and is an illegal delegation of power to Russell when it should be held by Augusta’s mayor.

Tuesday’s rhetoric was not as strong as that at a similar town hall meeting the group held in April.

Former Interim Mayor Willie Mays warned the group to be “equally as vigilant” with redistricting of the commission and Richmond County Board of Education seats.

Former Commissioner Marion Williams invited the group to another town hall meeting Sept. 6 to “get an education about our government.”

The lawsuit, which precluded the Georgia attorney general from deciding what powers Augusta’s mayor actually has, is months from being decided.

Its discovery period, complete with lengthy depositions of three commissioners, is over, according to Augusta general counsel Andrew MacKenzie. MacKenzie doubted, however, that resolution of the case would take years.

“The judge has expressed some indication to move the case along pretty quickly,” he said.

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