NA City Council (copy)

North Augusta City Council is pictured here at a May 7, 2018 meeting. A lawsuit against the city of North Augusta claims the city violated the Freedom of Information Act during an action that allocated money toward the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

The city of North Augusta is planning to ask a judge to reconsider a ruling that the city violated the Freedom of Information Act, according to Mayor Bob Pettit.

An order signed by Judge Clifton Newman sided with plaintiff Perry Holcomb in a lawsuit against the city and City Council that claimed the Freedom of Information Act was violated when City Council amended a list of projects for Capital Projects Sales Tax IV.

"The city will first be filing a motion to the judge to reconsider his ruling, that's the first step in the process and we will be doing that," Pettit said Thursday.

The ruling came Tuesday in the suit that was filed in November 2018. Holcomb's complaint claimed the city violated the act when it amended a list of projects for CPST IV – adding money for the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam to the list – without finding exigent or emergency circumstances as FOIA requires during a May 2018 meeting.

Since the suit was filed, the city hasn't been posting backup materials to its website prior to the meetings, including the text of resolutions and ordinance, and Pettit said that will continue.

"No, I will not be posting backup material now on the city's website until such time as this case is finally resolved," Pettit said.

Initially, an order in favor of the city was mistakenly filed and notifications of that order were sent to each party, but the mistake was noticed and the correct order, the one in favor of Holcomb, was filed.

"We were following the directives of the judge," said Robert Harte, Aiken County clerk of court, regarding the posting.

In a statement sent to the North Augusta Star, Holcomb said he is "truly sorry" the incorrect order was filed.

"That has caused discomfort to the city of North Augusta and to myself," the statement reads. "Discomfort is intolerable to all, but it should be revealed when it occurs, especially because of a legal error."

Holcomb's statement said the order and judgment should not fall lightly on the ears of City Council.

"The court has spoken," his statement reads. "The city may appeal or do other things the Rules of S.C. Courts provide. My counsel and I are prepared to face such, but the evidence from city documents state that 'an item' was added to 'an agenda' at the City Council meeting of May 7, 2018. That evidence and the statutes of S.C. FOIA are very damning to the city's case as Judge Newman notes throughout his decision."

Lindsey Hodges is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. Follow her on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges. 

Lindsey is the North Augusta reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017, and grew up in Hodges, SC.