Lockett to seek attorney general's opinion on definition of 'ordinary business'

Another legal question stands in the way of Augusta’s new personnel manual, despite a recent court ruling in the city’s favor, according to Commissioner Bill Lockett.

Today, Lockett will ask for General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie to seek an opinion from Attorney General Sam Olens on the definition of “ordinary business” as used in the city’s consolidation bill.

The answer, according to Lockett, will determine whether the commission overstepped its authority in approving the new manual with only six commission votes.

“This opinion must include examples of business that can be approved with six commission-council votes, and what business requires two-thirds of the commission-council for approval,” Lockett said. “An opinion needs to be made as to the legality of the personnel policy and procedures manual, since its passage was treated as ordinary business, when much of the content deals with restructuring the government.”

In his written ruling against the Baptist Ministers Conference of Augusta, Superior Court Judge David Roper said the commission’s adoption of the personnel manual didn’t change the city’s form of government.

He did not address the question of what constitutes “ordinary business” because the question wasn’t raised in the suit.

Plaintiffs’ 30-day deadline to appeal the ruling is fast approaching.

MacKenzie said the consolidation bill’s only mention of “ordinary business” is in Section 1-23, which sets the number of commissioners required for a quorum at seven.

Section 1-23 says “seven members of the commission shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of ordinary business.”

MacKenzie said he doubted the attorney general would offer an opinion on a local government matter since the litigation was resolved and plaintiffs have not filed an appeal.

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