Controversy in the Augusta Commission over Overstreet’s ruling; some say mayor given too much power

By: Jonathan Martin
By: Jonathan Martin

The ball is now in the commissioners' court after a judge rules on abstentions.

The mayor says he'll use his new power sparingly... but some still say it gives him too many options.

According to a judge's ruling handed down on Friday, commissioners can abstain from voting for any reason.

But now, the mayor can decide if their abstention means "yes" or "no"

Looking at this ruling, many would think it’s a clear win for the Commission and a loss for Woody Merry.

But they all don't see it that way.

And this new order, handed down to solve one problem, may only be creating another.

“We got everything we wanted and then some,” says Woody Merry.

Though his petition has been denied and dismissed, Merry is claiming a victory. He says the support he's getting from the community proves it.

“Oh my God! I've had people buying me breakfast, buying lunch, buying me supper, patting me on the back, offer to take me out to dinner,” he says.

Friday, Judge Carlisle Overstreet ruled that commissioners can abstain from voting, but when they do, the mayor may decide if that abstention counts as a yes or no vote.

“It gives the mayor a good bit of power and hopefully it will be used wisely,” says commissioner Joe Bowles.

“Only thing we can do is wait and see what kind of choice he makes,” says commissioner Calvin Holland.

And while Mayor Copenhaver and some commissioners are satisfied with the ruling, J.R. Hatney is one of several who are not. He feels the order gives the mayor too much power.

“I can’t see how anybody can order that. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. You can't take my vote and do what you want with it. If so, I don’t need to come,” Hatney says.

“I don’t think that’s what the charter calls for,” says commissioner Betty Beard. “The charter does not call for a strong mayor.”

Copenhaver says commissioners shouldn't be concerned about his new power because they still have the final say.

“Ultimately the authority lies with the commission, and what I’d like to see is the community working together,” Copenhaver says. “They can override me with six votes, so if the commission can work together, it’s never going to become an issue.”


Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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