AUGUSTA, Ga. — A judge is standing by an order that Augusta must turn over names of three fire chief finalists to news organizations and that the city-county’s commission can’t hire a new fire chief until 14 days after it turns over the records.
Under the hiring criteria, Burden scored 10 of 20, only enough to be considered for an interview.
Richmond County Circuit Judge Jesse Stone ruled Wednesday that the news organizations were correct in their contention that the city-county had to release documents for at least the three most highly rated finalists. City-county commissioners interviewed four finalists in closed session last month. Stone also ruled that commissioners couldn’t vote for two weeks after they released the finalists’ names.
Friday, news outlets reported Stone declined a motion to reconsider his ruling after the city-county asked him to clarify it, claiming the Augusta hadn’t actually narrowed its selections when it scheduled interviews for the four finalists.
The Augusta Chronicle reported that Stone asked how the city-county determined who to interview. “Did they pull names out of a hat?” he said. If cities could release only one name, “What would stop a city from doing that in every scenario?” he asked.
City attorney Wayne Brown said the commission “had the option of looking at those and saying, ‘No, send me more.’”
Stone’s rejection of the request to reconsider means the city-county’s scheduled vote on hiring Burden on Tuesday could be delayed. Commissioners are supposed to meet Monday to discuss an appeal. That’s also the deadline for them to comply with Stone’s order.