Baconton Mayor Charles Johnson resigned this week out of frustration, saying that he was being strong-armed by City Council members who regularly usurped his authority as the city’s chief executive officer.
Johnson also says that his colleagues secretly conspired to fire City Clerk Charlene Porcha in August and in doing so may have violated the state’s open meetings law.
Johnson said he wants the town leaders’ actions investigated to determine of government-in-the-sunshine regulations and other laws were violated. Meanwhile, the Secretary of State’s office is continuing its investigation into alleged irregularities during the Nov. 3 city election, a state official said Tuesday.
“I want it cleaned up,” Johnson said Tuesday after resigning at the end of Monday night’s council meeting. “The whole town elected me, not just one-fifth of them or a precinct, and the council was a hindrance to me doing my job, including voting behind my back. They want to run the city.”
Johnson, a 56-year-old U.S. Army retiree and logistician at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, served as mayor for six years. He says the Baconton mayor’s annual salary is about $750. Baconton, which has about 800 residents, is in Mitchell County at U.S. Highway 19 and Georgia Highway 93.
Johnson says that Baconton city attorney Tommy Coleman, Albany’s former mayor, told him that he drafted a resolution to fire Porcha because he understood that there was a consensus among a majority of the council members. Coleman confirmed that account of the events on Tuesday, saying that he acted on a telephone call from Mayor Pro Tem Annette Morman.
Porcha served as city clerk about four years. Coleman says he only met with Annette Morman about Porcha’s firing before the ouster occurred and drafted a resolution because of her contention most council members wanted Porcha fired. Georgia’s open government law requires the public’s business to be deliberated and decided in public, with few exceptions.
Some discussions of local government boards, such as the City Council firing a direct subordinate, may occur outside the public, but only if such an “executive session” is properly advertised. A majority of council members cannot collude behind the scenes to make a decision; doing so is a misdemeanor crime.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office Is investigating complaints that a registered voter was turned away from the polls in Baconton and that absentee ballots were improperly handled. But that’s just a sampling of the shenanigans occurring at city hall, including illegal City Council meetings, says Johnson, Porcha, and part-time Baconton resident Jessica McCrary.
Mrs. McCrary said that that she and some other Baconton residents shared concerns and documentation with state officials following the Nov. 3 election. Meanwhile, Ms. McCrary and Porcha also claim that the council regularly conducts illegal closed-door meetings. Those claims are not being investigated by local or state authorities.