Augusta ends court fight on fire chief documents

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Augusta city leaders say their search for new a fire chief was by the book, even if Superior Court judge Jesse Stone disagreed

“The city followed our normal procedures in the selection and all but with the judge’s ruling…we have to follow the instructions from the judge so,” said Commissioner Dennis Williams.  

Friday, the court affirmed its ruling that the city had violated the open records law when it released information on only one finalist Antonio Burden, after interviewing a total of four candidates.  

This in response to a lawsuit from WJBF and three other media outlets

Though the ruling was the opposite of the city’s legal position, some commissioners say the judge made the right call. 

“The process we did this time was the wrong process, I think. Judge Stone ruled according to the law,” said Commissioner John Clarke.   

“It was all about what was right for the citizens. I’m here for the citizens of Augusta, Georgia. I don’t think the process was done correctly,” said Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight.  

Commissioners went into legal session to discuss the lawsuit and options like appealing, but there was little appetite to move forward in court.

“I don’t think it’s worth the cost of appealing,” said Commissioner Dennis Williams. 

When it comes to hiring a fire chief, Augusta had its day in court. But the court rang the alarm bell with how the city handled the process.  

Commissioners planned to vote on hiring Antonio Burden at its meeting on Tuesday, but under the judge’s order the city must wait 14 days after the release of the other candidate’s information to hold the final vote. 

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