February 22, 2023 | News

Augusta city leaders weigh in on proposed change to charter

Writer: J. Bryan Randall

Published February 22, 2023
Fox 54

On Tuesday, FOX54 was first to tell you about a letter sent to the Georgia Legislature requesting a change to the city's charter. That change would give the mayor a vote on all Commission decisions, not just a tie-breaker vote.

It's a move that could change the balance of power in city government by allowing you to decide if Augusta's mayor should have a vote that counts beyond a tie-breaker.

FOX54 exclusively broke the news that the city sent a letter, allegedly signed by five commissioners and the mayor, asking that voters be allowed to change the charter.

As for the other five one commissioner said he didn't know about the move, until he saw it right here.  District 1 Commissioner Jordan Johnson told FOX54’s Lauren Young Wednesday, "The first time that I heard about a letter going to the state legislature to change the form of this government was when it was broken on FOX54 while I was sitting down having dinner last night."

Some other members of the Augusta Commission were surprised to hear about the resolution, which broke exclusively on FOX54. We spoke with some of them today who want to make sure before the mayor has his vote, you’ll have yours.

“I’m not the person to say what the Mayor should do and what role the Mayor should play. The charter does that very clearly,” said Commissioner Johnson

Mayor Pro Tem Brandon Garrett tells FOX54, “It’s a weak form of government and he has no say in the day-to-day actions of the commission.”

Take it from someone who has sat in the mayor’s seat.

Former Mayor Deke Copenhaver said, “To me, it’s common sense. Why would you not have the one elected official who runs at-large, and is elected city-wide, not have a full vote like the rest of the commission and add to the quorum?”

FOX54 shared the request from the mayor’s office first on Tuesday and as it makes its way through Georgia’s legislature, Augustans wait to have their say come November. It seems to be something on which our local leaders, past and present, can agree.

“What the Mayor’s asking for the state to do is put it on the ballot in November so everybody can vote whether they feel the Mayor should have the right to vote or sit there silently as usual and only break ties,” District 10 Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle told FOX54.

Johnson added, “If someone wants a vote, fine. Go after that vote. What this is is a need to have a conversation about what this means for our community and let the citizens weigh in.”

“You can’t go wrong with asking the people,” said Mayor Copenhaver.

One commissioner, District 2's Stacy Pulliam, sent out an email response saying she's opposed to the change without doing "due dilligence". In her response, Pulliam says the change shouldn't be made without first conducting a study, getting outside guidance from a reputable institute, and having Richmond County residents weigh in on the matter.

Hello my name is Stacy Pulliam, Augusta Richmond County Commissioner District 2.

On behalf of my constituents and myself, I am opposed to changing the Augusta charter without having done our due diligence. A large part of that due diligence could include, but is not limited to: a study committee that is reflective of the citizens in Augusta Richmond County; getting Carl Vinson Institute of Government (or a similar institution that is able to conduct a neutral study) involved for guidance in the matter; and conducting a series of charrettes. These measures would allow the citizens of Augusta Richmond County an opportunity to join in the conversations to make an informed decision.

A charter change, without seeking voter approval as well as properly educating the public on how this said change will impact our city, could potentially dismantle local government and take it out of the hands of the citizens and the officials elected to represent them.

For these reasons I respectfully request that you take the aforementioned suggestions into consideration prior to making such an impactful decision.

- Stacy Pulliam, Augusta District 2 Commissioner


State Senator Harold Jones and Rep. Brian Prince said they are working on the request but added they would have preferred to see a majority of commissioners sign off on the letter.  As it stands, only half, five commissioners, signed along with the mayor.