An investigation into the background of the man Augusta Commissioners named as a finalist for the new fire chief shows that he would come with some baggage.
The finalist, Dekalb County Deputy Fire Chief Antonio Burden, has had his share of legal issues. Burden has been found in contempt of court twice and has been taken to court for not paying his bills.
In 2013, Burden filed for divorce from his wife of 23 years, Trithena Burden.claims of adultery
Normally in custody cases, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for minor children. Attorney Ann Miller was appointed guardian ad litem in Burden’s case. Miller found his accusations against his disabled wife to be baseless, and the court agreed, awarding custody of the minor child to Trithena Burden.
The court also gave Mrs. Burden the marital home and $961 per month in child support. Burden’s former spouse was also awarded a lump sum alimony of $99,000, to be paid in monthly installments, and $25,000 from Burden’s 457 Plan through Dekalb County. Burden was also ordered to pay his ex-wife’s $6,000 attorney bill.
Not happy with the outcome, Burden appealed the decision, claiming the court pre-judged the case, ignored evidence and gave “undue and unwarranted weight to the biased and valueless report by the Guardian Ad Litem.”
Burden’s appeal also asked for a jury trial, which is extremely rare in a divorce case. The appeal for a new trial was denied.
Burden’s next step was to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court, which declined to hear his case. The Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous.
According to court documents, Burden simply stopped paying his bills.
In 2015, filed in the court for contempt against both Burden and his ex-wife for non-remittal of court ordered fees. The contempt motion was granted.
A few years later, in 2019, the former Mrs. Burden filed for contempt against her former spouse for being $11,400 in arrears on his alimony.
The Simpson Hill Homeowners Association also took Burden to court over $1667.50 he owed, and Citibank was forced to sue Burden for not paying his credit card bill of $1,046.77. Court documents show that Burden claimed an income of $87,271.
So far, only three Augusta Commissioners have spoken out about Burden’s fitness for the job of Augusta fire chief. Two of them, District 10 Commissioner John Clarke and District 3 Commissioner Catherine Smith-Mcnight, say they are going to continue to be vocal about what they have determined to be a rigged process in favor of a less than desirable candidate.
“We were not told how the candidates ranked, and we never voted on a finalist. It was something that was announced as being done by consensus, and I immediately said, ‘A consensus of who?” Clarke says. “I am not going to let this go. The commission needs to find out just what went on here. We might have to ask to see some emails that went back and forth. That’s all I’ll say.”
Commissioner McKnight agrees with Clarke and says she intends to honor her pledge to her constituents to fight for transparency in government.
“People are asking questions and, as a commissioner, I should be able to tell them the answers. But I can’t do that if I am being left out of the process,” McKnight says. “The way I feel is that if I don’t speak out and question the transparency of the fire chief selection, then people need to stand up and vote me out of office.”
The other commissioner who has been vocal in the matter involving the selection and vetting process for Burden is District 4 Commissioner Sammie Sias, who remains in his post as commissioner despite ongoing GBI and FBI investigations of his alleged criminal behavior while in office.
Sias is a supporter of Burden and was very terse about his feelings on the matter. Sias was a part of the “consensus” that made Burden a finalist even though he did not attend Burden’s interview.
“I am not going to get involved this, the mess you are stirring up,” Sias said before ending the call.