Laying down the law

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The Augusta Commission thankfully, and without ambiguity, shot down city attorney Chiquita Johnson's media crackdown and power grab Tuesday.

City attorney Chiquita Johnson  File/Staff
File/Staff
City attorney Chiquita Johnson

Now commissioners need to spend the holidays considering whether they're getting even minimally competent legal advice.

Ms. Johnson's proposals were a two-pronged poke in the public eye. One resolution would have limited media access to elected officials -- restricting the number of news cameras in commission chambers and shunting aside reporters into a "media room" to conduct interviews. Meanwhile, anyone off the street could have engaged commissioners in dialogue anywhere else. Clearly unconstitutional, even to a first-year law student.

The other proposal would have changed the city charter to grant Ms. Johnson and the city's lawyers "peace officer" power to launch probes into any city department, authority or contractor. She also would have had the power to hire any outside counsel she wished without the commission's approval.

Commissioners bluntly showed Ms. Johnson what they thought of her ideas. Her "peace officer" plan was shot down 9-0-1, with only outgoing Commissioner Calvin Holland abstaining. As for her media plan, it was strangled in its cradle even before discussion.

Since Ms. Johnson apparently thinks meeting space is too cramped to accommodate commissioners and reporters, the commission voted unanimously to move all future commission and committee meetings into its larger chambers.

Action in the meeting Tuesday amounted to a referendum -- on the job performance of, and the level of trust in, Ms. Johnson as city attorney. As an exclamation point on this, commissioners wouldn't even grant her request to enter a closed session to discuss unspecified legal matters.

Her track record as legal counsel for the city is littered with controversy and obstructionism. Too much of her time has been spent in helping thwart the media's open records requests. Instead of simply handing government documents over for rightful public inspection, she makes citizens jump through hoops, only for them to run into a brick wall.

Commissioner Alvin Mason says Ms. Johnson's behavior is beyond arrogant and bordering on incompetence -- and says "I certainly couldn't accept any legal advice from her, given what we'd just went through." Yet, he says he's not looking at firing Ms. Johnson.

Why in the world not? What good is a lawyer whose legal advice you can't accept? Exactly how low are Mr. Mason's standards?

The city of Augusta's legal representation shouldn't have to sink to an even deeper level of dysfunction before corrective action is taken. Our government and its citizens deserve better.

Comments (99) Add comment
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omnomnom
3964
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omnomnom 12/17/09 - 04:28 am
0
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the editorial cartoon is

the editorial cartoon is hilarious! too bad McKee didn't work that awesome zebra jacket into it

Riverman1
86792
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Riverman1 12/17/09 - 04:49 am
0
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Ms. Johnson is a humorless,

Ms. Johnson is a humorless, cold, uncommunicative person&#0133common traits of inept individuals thrust into positions beyond their capabilities. She attempts to hide in the structure on her position. Her conflict with her office worker that ended in a lawsuit is evidence of her rigid personality. To his credit, Mayor Copenhaver attempts to draw her out often in friendly conversation at Commission meetings, but she replies with short answers while looking down at her papers. It's an embarrassing situation for all. Her antagonistic attitude does not promote trust even in those trying to get past her demeanor.

business owner again
0
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business owner again 12/17/09 - 04:58 am
0
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Don't prolong it. Fire her

Don't prolong it. Fire her now and move on.

Brad Owens
4715
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Brad Owens 12/17/09 - 05:41 am
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I can tell you this, she is

I can tell you this, she is on her way out. No doubt about it. I have never seen anything like that towatrds any county employee since I started watching the commission in 1997. Thi sis something that had to be done. If I were Ms. Chichita, I would get my resume updated and offer to leave with a letter from RC thanking her for her service verses one saying 'you're fired' in hand. Hire back Steve and his professional staff NOW!!!

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 12/17/09 - 05:42 am
0
0
Affirmative action insults

Affirmative action insults everyone involved and gives you problems like Ms.Johnson. Now that the gridlock has been broken, everyone feels free to vote their conscious. She is part of the Augusta that must be changed.

robbie1
0
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robbie1 12/17/09 - 05:49 am
0
0
If your boss doesn't trust

If your boss doesn't trust you, but your job requires that your boss trust your judgement, you must have the intestinal fortitude to remove yourself. That at least shows you have some character. No one is perfect, and I get my butt chewed regularly, but if my boss told me he did not trust me or my judgement, I would tender my resignation.

wizzardx1
0
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wizzardx1 12/17/09 - 06:58 am
0
0
she was just following

she was just following hussein's lead-a grab for power,skirt the consitution,stealing from the tax payers.and now the law suits begin.

Brad Owens
4715
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Brad Owens 12/17/09 - 07:03 am
0
0
Knowing her, she will go

Knowing her, she will go ahead and cut herself a check for $125,000.00 before the commission votes to fire her.

UncleStrom
2
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UncleStrom 12/17/09 - 07:08 am
0
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Brad, even though I'm

Brad, even though I'm laughing at your comment, unfortunately that wouldn't surprise me. But I think she'd need at least $150k to prove her superiority over all others.

fred1217
4
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fred1217 12/17/09 - 07:36 am
0
0
Okay Augusta Chronicle, after

Okay Augusta Chronicle, after three days of negative articles, an editorial, and a demeaning cartoon, we finally get it. You want Ms. Johnson to be fired. Seems like all is needed now is a phone call to the ring leader of the new 6 man commission "quorum", but I guess you needed to lay the foundation first. Richmond County tax payers should be concerned. The old city attorney was charging Augusta millions of dollars. With a 6-4 vote block backing him come January, what will he (or another crony) charge now if brought back as suggested by one of the commenters? In the past the only objection came from the minority commissioners that pointed out how much money this guy was making off the city (e.g., handling bonds). That check and balance will be gone in January. Does anyone know the real reason they want Ms. Johnson out?

Irish
0
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Irish 12/17/09 - 07:45 am
0
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Waiting for justus to post

Waiting for justus to post his typical rant this morning about racism..forget poor job performance here..blame it on bias and bigotry..

Brad Owens
4715
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Brad Owens 12/17/09 - 08:18 am
0
0
fred1217, how much did

fred1217, how much did Steve's firm charge the city for legal services? Was it a by the hour fee or a block per issue? What was the total we paid his firm the last year he was there? The fees the firm who handles the bonds gets, is that NORMAL procedure or was this an inside deal as you suggest? Steve and his firm, even if it was WAY more expensive than this zero, is worth every dime compared to the complete lack or skills we have now. Lets just say its like the difference between driving a Mercedes verses a Yugo. The Yugo may be a hell of a lot cheaper, but is the discomfort, the lack of safety, poor construction, lack of options and dependablity worth the savings? Not really huh? It's your money too by the way.

alsway
0
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alsway 12/17/09 - 08:18 am
0
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Fred, the composition of your

Fred, the composition of your letter shows that you have intelligence. I am hoping that you are asking "tongue in cheek" when you state "Does anyone know the real reason they want Ms. Johnson out?" I certainly think that after what has happened troughout her tenure with RC, you would wnat better legal advice for our city! She needs to go sooner rather than later!

getalife
4
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getalife 12/17/09 - 08:48 am
0
0
Hopefully Ms. Banana has in

Hopefully Ms. Banana has in her personnel file all of the problems and issues she has had since becoming the legal eagle for Augusta, if not another legal battle for Augusta. It seems that her past job history was never found or considered important enough not to hire her in the first place. Whoever did the background check on Ms. Banana should also be fired.

nelsonhargrove
0
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nelsonhargrove 12/17/09 - 09:04 am
0
0
What did you expect from an

What did you expect from an affimative action hire--you get what you pay for!

nelsonhargrove
0
Points
nelsonhargrove 12/17/09 - 09:04 am
0
0
What did you expect from an

What did you expect from an affimative action hire--you get what you pay for!

justus4
103
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justus4 12/17/09 - 09:08 am
0
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Day four: The same ol' story
Unpublished

Day four: The same ol' story of a minority official in the local printing operation being used to speculate, advise, engage, or otherwise adversely imply that something is going on and it MUST be negative. Easily predictable, but here is what U won't read: The attempted bribe of two local officials and the progress of that so-called "investigation" or "inquiry" because that does not include any minority culprits. This is an historical flaw with the AWM, which uses racial inferences to destroy lives, while U know who is busy stealing the loot. This is just another example, but wait, the LTEs will be used throughout the holidays to "keep it going" and offering citizen opinions. Ha! Again, nothing new here, just U know who not aware that the southern strategy failed a long time ago.

getalife
4
Points
getalife 12/17/09 - 09:15 am
0
0
Was Ms. Banana and her

Was Ms. Banana and her Atlanta lawyer friend paid to write this power grab proposal, if so then the commissioners should ask for our money back. This was a total waste of taxpayer's money.

DEVGRU
0
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DEVGRU 12/17/09 - 09:19 am
0
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Riverman, you are exactly

Riverman, you are exactly right. She seems to be one with a personality disorder. She is only looking out for number 1 at the cost of everybody else. Sociopath.

butler123
1
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butler123 12/17/09 - 09:19 am
0
0
Sounds like this position

Sounds like this position went straight to her head. Who does she think she is?

Brad Owens
4715
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Brad Owens 12/17/09 - 09:24 am
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justus4, what are you saying?

justus4, what are you saying? This is a HUGE story! It has never happened in the 12 years I have been watching the commission. The paper is right, white or not, and Chicita is wrong, black or not. It is a black and white issue alright, but not the kind you think it is.

DEVGRU
0
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DEVGRU 12/17/09 - 09:24 am
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Fred1217, I know why they

Fred1217, I know why they want Ms. Johnson out. Because she is a [filtered word].

pittsburg
4
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pittsburg 12/17/09 - 09:26 am
0
0
Cry me a river justus, the

Cry me a river justus, the lady is way over her head an you know it.

pittsburg
4
Points
pittsburg 12/17/09 - 09:26 am
0
0
Cry me a river justus, the

Cry me a river justus, the lady is way over her head an you know it.

nelsonhargrove
0
Points
nelsonhargrove 12/17/09 - 09:27 am
0
0
I see justass has finally

I see justass has finally made it to work and fired up his employers computer!

thewiz0oz
9
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thewiz0oz 12/17/09 - 09:31 am
0
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IT IS INTERESTING TO NOTE the

IT IS INTERESTING TO NOTE the two criticisms of the messenger -- Justus & Fred wants to shoot the messenger and either reward the abuser of public trust or attempt to divert the conversation to meaningless other discussions -- there is absolutely no credible way to justify the actions, inactions and misdeeds of our current incompetent City Attorney -- the "southern strategy" of excusing violations of the public trust based on race is long gone -- hopefully those trying to resurrect it in recent years will realize that -- black or white.

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 12/17/09 - 09:31 am
0
0
Hey justas ...this person (I

Hey justas ...this person (I will not call her a lady) is a liar and a thief...would you trust her with your business? If the answer is yes then you sir are a maroon !!

alsway
0
Points
alsway 12/17/09 - 09:44 am
0
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Betty, are you calling justas

Betty, are you calling justas a "person of color"? Maroon is defined as "dark brownish-red colr". On the other hand a "moron" is a person who is notably stupid or lacking in good judgment! I think that pretty much describes justas!

coolchic
0
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coolchic 12/17/09 - 10:18 am
0
0
If Chiquita was fired from

If Chiquita was fired from her previous job for fraud - using business credit card for personal expenses such as home shopping network - what makes us think she hasn't done the same with her RC business account? She seems arrogant enough to try it again. Wonder if she is Christmas shopping at taxpayer expense?
Also how much did RC taxpayers have to pay the Atlanta firm at $225 hr rate to help her draft the proposals that she was not authorized to do? Just curious how much RC taxpayer money goes to the Atlanta firm in addition to her 6 figure salary?
Is there really any question that she is not qualified for this job? Is there really any question that she should be fired?

southernguy08
499
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southernguy08 12/17/09 - 10:48 am
0
0
Well IRISH, you didn't have
Unpublished

Well IRISH, you didn't have to wait long for JUSTUS. Check out the 8:08 post. Don't you know? There are NO GUILTY AA'S, unless they conservative Republicans. Chiquita Johnson doesn't want the news spotlight on her for good reason. It's easier to get away with the crap she's pulled when nobody's looking.

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