Stonewalled: Petition or no petition, Chamber not talking

Story by Chris Graham

An attorney representing former Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ben Carter as had been promised delivered an envelope regarding Carter’s firing to the Chamber on Wednesday, but the delivery was incomplete.

The Chamber’s Board of Directors notified members today that the envelope from Frank Hilton of the law firm Wharton, Aldhizer & Weaver contained several pages of signatures but was missing a cover letter or enclosed petition that had been purported to be on the way to request a Special Meeting of the Board to discuss the reasons for Carter’s dismissal.

“Therefore, the Board has nothing to respond to at this time,” a statement from the Board to members sent by e-mail today read.

And even if and when it does have something to respond to, well, don’t expect much.

“It should be noted that if a Special Meeting is held, the Board cannot be forced to publicly disclose confidential personnel records or information, and it will not do so even if a Special Meeting is called,” the e-mail from the Board read.

So, that would appear to be that.

For the record, as have other media outlets, has asked for a copy of the Chamber’s bylaws to be able to get some guidance on how the petition process should proceed. As it was for other media outlets, the request was denied.

Augusta Free Press Publishing, the parent company of, is a member of the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce. I was informed by a staff member in response to my request for a copy of the bylaws that members are not entitled to have copies of the organization’s bylaws.

The e-mail from the Chamber Board, then, is our only guidance. Should the obvious missing details eventually be supplied to the Chamber, the next step from the Board, according to the e-mail, would be to confirm the authenticity of the signatures. The e-mail to members today listed as duties in this arena also confirming current membership in the Chamber of Commerce, “and the authority of the person signing to sign on behalf of the business/organization listed. Obviously, not every employee of an organization is authorized to sign a Petition on their employer’s or organization’s behalf,” according to the e-mail.

Should that review yield a finding that the proper number of authorized signatures on a petition calling for a Special Meeting of the Chamber have been received, then the Board will set the Special Meeting as required by the organization’s bylaws.

The phrase much ado about nothing seems applicable here.

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