The Inside Story: Marion Williams, Lockett question legality of TEE Center 'negotiations'

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- He has not taken his oath yet, but a returning Augusta commissioner is calling out other commissioners for possible bad behavior. The story is getting the attention of the District Attorney's Office.

We asked city leaders where things stand when it comes to teeing up a management deal for Augusta's new TEE Center.

"Well, we are in negotiations again," said Commissioner Corey Johnson, who along with at least two other commissioners, met privately with the Augusta Marriott.

"I know for a fact it is a violation of the open meetings law," said Commissioner Bill Lockett.

The city attorney agrees and goes a step further.

"I don't think it is the place of most elected officials to be negotiating contracts," said City Attorney Andrew Mackenzie.

"Yes," Lockett said, "because they have no authority to negotiate on behalf of this governing body."

Incoming Super District 9 Commissioner Marion Williams agrees.

"As far as the ethics rules are concerned, there are a lot of ethics rules that have been broken many times," said Williams on News 12's weekly radio segment on 96.3 KISS FM. "We have people that are supposed to be in place to handle contracts. They don't do it. Bill Lockett mentioned something about staff. There are staff members who are afraid to do their job."

Williams claims there is such a hunger for his watchdog style of government that he won with a campaign so low on resources they had to rotate campaign signs.

"In fact," said Williams with a smile, "I had some people call me and say they have moved your sign. I said no. They said, 'Yes sir. We are looking at it. It's not here.' I said, well we moved those signs."

All jokes aside, the possible bad behavior on the commission is getting the attention of the DA.

"We are always willing to look at things where there are allegations of impropriety," said District Attorney Ashley Wright. "I think the public has a right to know what's going on."

Commissioners will tackle that TEE Center contract at Thursday's commission meeting.

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