Commissioners to debate restarting fire chief search

CSRA News

AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – Augusta’s fire chief search has had its flaws since the get go. It resulted in a successful media outlet lawsuit now the official calling for a search do over.  

Last month, Augusta announced that Antonio Burden was the sole finalist for fire chief. Now some believe it’s time to look again. 

“I just think for the integrity of it and, let’s be real Mister Burden, or whoever the candidate was, we wouldn’t be setting them up for success to come into this cloud in Augusta. So I think the only way to do it is to start the process over,” said Commissioner Sean Frantom.  

A commission committee is scheduled to debate Frantom’s call to restart the search process, something other commissioners say it’s the right thing to do. 

“We do need to go back. We need to do it right and we owe it to the citizens of Augusta, Georgia to have the right person in that position,” said Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight.  

A majority of commissioners did support Burden to be fire chief but do they still?  

“I’m going to keep that to myself for the time, because all of the candidates we interviewed did quite well and qualified,” said Commissioner Dennis Williams. 

Burden was one of those interviewed, even though e-mails show the city’s search firm did not list him as a candidate and it was city administrator Odie Donald who stepped in, adding Burden’s name for consideration. 

“I’m not voting for Burden. I’m just not. When he was not even in the finalists from the head-hunters, why are we going to vote for a man who did not make the cut?” said Commissioner John Clarke. 

“He’s the administrator. I think he has the right to do that, but we didn’t know about it and understanding when you see the e-mails that person, this person wouldn’t have made it…it’s just concerning all around,” said Commissioner Frantom.  

Now Frantom’s restart of the search process is not the only fire chief item on the agenda for commissioners on Tuesday. The administrator is also placing on the agenda an overview and update of the fire chief process.

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