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FIRST ON NEWS 12: I-Team finds new details on finalist for Augusta fire chief

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 5:57 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 29, 2021 at 6:21 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The I-Team is uncovering new details about the sole finalist for Augusta’s next fire chief.

News 12′s Laura Warren combed through Antonio Burden’s personnel file — almost 250 pages from his 27 years with DeKalb County.

It was filled with a lot of praise for his work ethic and skills, but we also found a suspension on his record.

He was suspended for five days last May after he was spotted in his county vehicle going into a liquor store.

That may be what you may call a red flag, but we can’t compare his red flags to any other candidates’ for the fire chief job. That’s because the city of Augusta has refused to release the names and qualifications of who else applied for the chief job.

WRDW is now joining other local media in a legal complaint to get this public information into the public eye.

“Very few cities or counties have been as brazen to ignore the law, as we think is happening here in Augusta,” said attorney David Hudson of the Hull Barrett Firm, who represents WRDW in this complaint.

He says the city of Augusta is violating Georgia law by withholding the information.

“It’s better to let the sun shine on qualifications and backgrounds of these candidates,” Hudson said. “And the people who are going to be served by the person who is eventually hired have an opportunity to have input.”

The city of Augusta attorneys responded to our complaint, writing: “Plaintiffs are asking this court to put the citizens of Richmond County in danger.”

Hudson says the real danger is in the unknown.

As our complaint says: “No one seeks to put the citizens of Augusta in danger. To avoid that possibility, a prompt hearing should be conducted and a determination made whether the requested documents should be produced.”

Judge Jesse C. Stone heard the case in superior court Monday.

The official statement regarding the open records request following Monday’s court hearing:

“Augusta is thankful for the opportunity to address our coordination of Open Records and Open Meetings within this legal forum. It is and always will be our intent to respond appropriately to all inquiries within the parameters of the law. We remain confident that our actions are fully in line with that goal and intention, and we look forward to a favorable outcome as we move forward within this process.”

- Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr.

The I-Team will keep you posted.

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