Washington, GA Mayor Bruce Bailey Attempts to Remove Former Political Opponent, Angela Booker and Alvin Jones from Board; Attorney Representing HUD Threatens Lawsuit if Removed

Published on 10 March 2024 at 15:41

Shown at Washington City Hall are Alvin Jones, attorney Stewart Duggan, mayor Bruce Bailey and Washington City Attorney Adam Nelson


On March 8, 2024, two hearings were held at Washington City Hall regarding mayor Bruce Bailey’s intention to remove Angela Booker and Alvin Jones from the housing authority board. The housing authority is an entity that receives its funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is governed by that entity. The board makes decisions regarding many facets of the housing that includes at least 100 units that are subsidized by the federal government. These residents of these housing units are predominantly African American. Zena Zahran is the executive director of the housing authority. Both Jones and Booker were appointed to the housing authority by Bill deGolian.

 

A hearing is required when a mayor attempts to remove a member of the board. The board members facing removal are to have an opportunity to review evidence against them and refute charges and provide their own evidence. The mayor does not have the authority of a dictator. In the case of the housing authority, because it is managing HUD funds and HUD programs, it is very different from all the other boards, commission and authorities in Washington, Georgia. One of the big differences, which was clearly demonstrated at the hearing, is that an attorney represents the interest of the housing authority. Stewart Duggan is the attorney that represents the Washington housing authority and a total of thirty housing authorities in Georgia. He was not hired by Angela Booker or Alvin Jones to defend them. This is an important distinction. He is representing the housing authority on behalf of HUD and what is best for the housing authority. Everything he said in the hearing was in the best interest of the housing authority.

 

Booker Hearing

 

Angela Booker’s hearing began at 8:30 am. The hearing was not posted on the city website, Facebook page nor was notice posted at city hall. City council members Maceo Mahoney and David Fisher were invited by the mayor to attend the hearing. Councilmen Nathaniel Cullars Sr. and Larry Hill were also present.

 

Attorney Duggan began by saying it was a “due process” hearing, and “evidentiary hearing” where Booker and Jones would hear the evidence brought by the mayor, against them supporting is desire to remove them. Duggan also said they should be able to cross examine the testimony and that the burden was on the mayor to produce evidence. “Today is the day to produce evidence and witnesses” he said.

 

The letter Booker received on February 23, 2024, from Bailey said the reason for her removal was “inefficiencies” and for not paying a past utility bill in a timely manner. Duggan said the charge was “Illegitimate, improper and patently absurd.” The letter can be seen below this article.

 

Readers may recall that at the January city council meeting Bailey had on the agenda, a recommendation to make a stipulation that anyone appointed to any board, commission or authority could not have a past due utility bill. There was no motion made on this and no vote taken so this is not a policy the city has. If Booker is being held to this standard, it would have to be proven that every sitting member of every board, commission and authority has had their past utility payments thoroughly reviewed by the mayor and have been found to have never had a late utility payment otherwise it appears, Booker is being targeted. In a post on his Facebook page Bailey posted screenshots of requests he made to executive director of the housing authority, Zena Zahran, requesting documents regarding attendance, training and other information about board members but he made these requests after he sent the letters to Booker and Jones about their removal.

 

 

City attorney Adam Nelson of Augusta law group Fleming and Nelson LLP said only “notice” was required to be provided. Duggan said he disagreed and represents 30 public housing authorities and that is “Not how they do it, you are misguided.”

 

Bailey was asked by Duggan to state the evidence. Bailey said Booker had a late utility bill that was disconnected and when asked to pay it at times she came to city hall for other matters, was “defiant” and that it sets a bad example. Bailey acknowledged the bill had been paid.

 

Duggan responded, “is that it?” He then asked Booker if she was aware of any ordinance that requires commissioners of the housing authority to pay utility bills on time. Booker responded she is not aware of such an ordinance. Duggan said the housing authorities are “separate and autonomous government entities that are not subject to the mayor.” He said the mayor and city do not dictate the housing authority.

 

Duggan asked Bailey for evidence of “defiance.” Bailey’s response was “I’m not on trial here.” Duggan pushed back saying evidence is required. Duggan provided evidence that included the letter Booker received from Bailey stating his intent to remove her on February 23, 2024. Duggan asked Booker if she had ever received any communication with Bailey regarding concerns about her performance, the past due utility bill or any other problem or concern. Booker replied, under oath, she had not. He asked her if she had an issue with the utility bill and she said she did. She had requested disconnection and the city did not disconnect when she requested so she was being charged for service she shouldn’t have been.

 

Duggan provided as evidence the letter Booker sent to Bailey on February 27, 2024, asking for documents regarding the accusations and clarification on “inefficiencies.” Under oath, Booker stated she had never received the documents or a response to her request. Booker’s request can be seen below this article.

 

Booker stated under oath that to her knowledge nobody had ever made a complaint about her performance on the board and that she attends board meetings regularly and participates as asked. She said no board member has every complained to her about her performance. She also said she was not listed as a member of the housing authority board on an updated list of all board members dated February 13, 2024, that was published by the Washington Wilkes Informer. She said she did not know why she was not listed as it was prior to her receiving the letter from Bailey about her removal.

 

Duggan said the Washington housing authority is fiscally sound with $2 million in the bank and it has effectively managed and improved operations since she was appointed to the board. HUD had made no complaints about the board whatsoever.

 

Bailey asked Booker about the prior executive director of the housing authority and Booker replied she was unable to answer because she didn’t have the documents she had requested. If she had them, she would have been able to provide an answer to his question.  Booker also said she believed Bailey is taking this action because she ran against him for mayor and agreed when Duggan asked if it was discrimination and retaliation.

 

Duggan asked if public notice had been made for the hearing. Bailey responded “Yes, as I am aware.” Duggan said he looked and he didn’t believe it had been. He said he will bring open records and open meetings violations lawsuits and that if it was not properly made known to the public, he wanted his statement on record in the event they go to superior court.

 

You can watch Booker’s hearing here.

 

Jones Hearing

 

The hearing for Alvin Jones began after Booker’s hearing. I do not have a copy of the letter Jones received but Jones said it stated something related to an illegal contract and “inefficiencies” as reason for his removal. Bailey then had an opportunity to state the reason and he said the Urban Redevelopment Authority proposed a contract with the housing authority and that Jones never returned the contract. He questioned if Jones was authorized to approve the contract.

 

Duggan asked for the contract and Bailey said he didn’t have it but would ask Jerry deBin to provide it. Duggan asked for the facts and evidence to support “inefficiencies.” City attorney Nelson interjected and said the letter that Bailey sent to Jones was “sufficient.” Duggan asked again “are there facts?” Nelson replied that the mayor had concluded his statement.

 

Duggan replied that due process and fairness should be adhered to. He said Bailey was “witness to the allegation and won’t go under oath to answer questions about the allegation he himself was witness to.” He said he wanted it stated in the record how “unfair the mayor is being that he won’t allow himself to be questioned under oath and hasn’t provided the contract.”

 

Jones was sworn in and stated he has been on the board of the housing authority since 2022 and is chairman of the board. He said he received a letter from the mayor on February 23, 2024, that notified him of the hearing and attempt at his removal. He said he has never been told by the mayor that there was a concern about his performance.

 

On February 27, 2024, he sent an email to Bailey requesting an extension of the hearing so he would have time to gather and review evidence. He also filed a request for information pertaining to the allegations. He made the request in person and submitted it to city clerk Debbie Bazemore. Duggan presented the document that had been date and time stamped by Bazemore. He said he received a letter from Bazemore stating there were no records to fulfill his request.

 

Duggan asked Jones “Do you feel he (Bailey) did this intentionally and it is also a crime?” Jones replied “Yes, it’s unfair” and recognized he realized it is a crime if records are willfully withheld. It is a misdemeanor in the state of Georgia.  Duggan asked Jones “Do you think the mayor is trying to blindside you?” Jones replied, “I do.”

 

Duggan then produced a copy of a text exchange between Bailey and Jones on February 28, 2024, where Bailey told Jones “I am not the one pushing this, district 1 council members asked for you to be removed.” Bailey also texted that he was glad Jones made the records request and said he couldn’t find anything he would agree to. “Hang in there, we will get through this” was also texted by Bailey to Jones. Duggan pointed out Bailey acknowledged receiving the records request but didn’t provide the contract or any records.

 

Duggan then asked of Jones if he was aware the mayor “is circulating rumors in the community that two board members are going to be arrested for misappropriation and theft of the housing authority.” Jones said he was not aware. Duggan asked Booker if she knew and she said she was not aware. Duggan asked Bailey if he has been doing that. He replied “I have not.”  Duggan  said the executive director of the housing authority, Zena Zahran told him Bailey called her and told her this. Bailey said he was only asking Zahran about it.

 

Jones then took an opportunity to speak to Bailey and voice his disappointment. He said the housing authority has made progress and it would be very costly to remove he and Booker because much has been spent on their training. He said the board is very efficient and doing good work for the community. He said what the mayor is doing is not productive and is hindering their ability to do the work they need to do.

 

You can watch the recording of Jones’ hearing here.

 

After the hearing on Friday, Bailey posted a message on his Facebook page saying he didn’t know Booker’s utility bill had been paid and that he was being advised by “senior council members.” He said he had received information from city council members and others to “look into the matter.”  He said it was a hearing for him to receive information from the “two individuals.” He said in Jones’ case, the URA never received a signed returned copy of a contract Jones was supposedly to have taken to the housing authority for consideration and signature. The contract Bailey refers to was not provided nor was Jones told anything about this concern prior to the hearing. Jones explained during the hearing that he did bring the topic that was being proposed to the housing authority but it was not agreed by the board to proceed.

 

An important question is why did the mayor move directly to letters and hearings of removal if in fact, people were bringing concerns that he hadn’t investigated yet? Bailey didn’t ask Booker or Jones about these concerns that undisclosed individuals were bringing to him. He didn’t share this information even when asked, after Jones and Booker received letters informing them he was planning to remove them from boards they had been serving on without issue. He also chose to refuse their requests for evidence into the allegations.

 

Bailey also said in the Facebook post “Again, I could have easily made removals with no discussion.” This is in complete opposition to what the attorney representing the housing authority, made very clear in the hearing. The housing authority is a “separate and autonomous government entity not subject to the mayor or city”  Duggan said. It is concerning that the mayor, after the hearing, continues to believe he has the authority to remove members of the board and risk a lawsuit as attorney Duggan said more than once, he would pursue.

 

Bailey ended his post with “The very reason I called for a hearing was to get the results we obtained and I’m pleased with that.”

 

You can watch the hearings and decide for yourself if you are pleased with what occurred and how it reflects on the city of Washington.

 

 

Written by Michelle Chaffee

 


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Comments

Ken Parris
a month ago

What happened Friday, 8 March, at City Hall in Washington was abominable. It is a horrible black eye for Washington.

Stewart Duggan practices law with Norman Fletcher, the former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Their firm is highly respected and well known in legal and political circles across Georgia.

And our Mayor and City leaders exposed for them and the world how those trying to control the City of Washington are petty and ill prepared to lead. Mr. Duggan made that obvious for all to see.

Yet, our mayor and city attorney tried to be dismissive of Mr. Duggan, of Ms. Booker, of Mr. Jones....with a Keystones Cops performance. Leaders across the state will see this. They see it for what it is and it kills any chance for economic development and growth.

What the Mayor, City Administrator and other councilmen at that table did Friday was the "Patience Washington" fake Facebook page they set up in October all over again. It was an attempt at a "public whipping"... a way to show how these new City leaders will "whip" people in to shape who speak out with differing views, who call for change, for new ideas, who run for office or seek to volunteer in roles of leadership.... it was an attempt to oppress in the same old ways this community has always known.

Though, it failed in a grand way.

Change is upon us. And it started last fall.

As Martin Luther King famously said in his Mountain Top speech, "whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent."

Friday was a significant step in the straightening of backs in Washington, Georgia.
Don't be afraid!

Have the courage Angela Booker and Alvin Jones showed Friday.

Have the courage of Michelle Chaffee and the Washington-Wilkes Informer to capture the truth and make it readily available to the people -- because as Mr. Duggan noted several times, our leaders are repeatedly in violation of Open Records and Open Meetings laws.

Say what needs to be said... and say it loudly.

We have had a newly elected Mayor and new councilmen for 4 months. What has been done?

Nothing.
Nothing to reduce your utility bills.
Nothing to change how much you pay for electricity.
Nothing to get rid of the power adjustment fee.
Nothing to bring jobs to Washington.
Nothing to clean up our parks.
Nothing to supplement law enforcement.
No Vision.
No Strategy.
No forward looking plans.

The first two City Council meetings were same ol' "Patience Washington."

Term limits targeted at District 1 Council members. A public whipping.

A new rule demanded by the Mayor that no one can leave a meeting even to go to the bathroom without getting the Mayor's permission. A public whipping.

Secret communications exposed between the Mayor and the white councilmen that excluded all the black councilmen. A public whipping.

A City Administrator who doles out thousands of taxper's dollars to favored and exclusive white groups (including white councilmen) for private parties in private homes and unilaterally takes away money approved by the full city council for programs with proven success to help black children. A public whipping.

Nasty, dismissive, disrespectful and racist words spewed by the City Administrator (I am nobody's "hey boy..." ) and Councilman Andy Anderson aimed at our black councilmen. A public whipping.

If it wasn't obvious to you already, Friday shined a light on the true character of these city leaders.

And afterwards, blame, blame, blame...blaming it on everyone else now that some in the community straightened their backs and it was captured on video.

All the Facebook posts in the world from the Mayor's wife and daughter can't change what video shows.... video doesn't lie... no matter how many times the mayor's family members call everyone else who sees this "idiots" or wrong.... The video doesn't lie...

There is another storm brewing... the Mayor sent threatening letters to all the members of the Urban Redevelopment Authority Board responsible for the Gordon Street School project this week. These were the same type of letters he sent Angela Booker and Alvin Jones that were exposed on Friday.. threatening to throw them off the board.

These board members will need your help and support in the coming days. Don't let them get a public whipping.

And don't let those trying to protect the old system - the Patience Washington ways - attack the Washington-Wilkes Informer for shining a light truth.

Time to straighten those backs!

Angela Booker
a month ago

Great article. Keep up the great work!!!!

FM
a month ago

Interesting article....thanks for shining a light on the facts!