City Ink: Hold onto your pants; court’s now in session

Augusta Commission member Sammie Sias must want to make a point of some sort by placing an item on Tuesday’s commission meeting agenda that would bypass the usual steps in employee disciplinary matters and have the commission be the judge and jury in all cases.


Agenda item No. 17 states “Discuss scrapping the PPPM (Personnel, Policy and Procedures Manual) and proposed policy letters and allow every employee charged with a disciplinary violation the opportunity to have commissioners friendly to present their case and/or organization present it for adjudication by the commission. This opportunity should not be available just to the politically connected, but all employees.”

Can you imagine the commission hearing every disciplinary case?

The Case of the Employee with Sagging Pants: Administrator: “Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Commission Court in now in session. The Honorable Mayor Davis presiding. Hurry up now or we’re never going to get out of here.”

The District 10 commissioner comes to the podium and says, “I’m here to speak on behalf of the employee who came to work wearing sagging pants. His supervisor wants to fire him because his underwear was showing, and he had to hold his waistband with one hand to keep his britches from falling completely down, but since he’s my nephew, I feel it’s necessary for me to try to save his job. Otherwise, I’ll have to find him another one in utilities.”

(Commissioners nod and mumble sympathetically)

“I asked my nephew why he went to work with sagging pants, and he said he wanted to make a statement,” the commissioner continues. “I asked him what kind of a statement wearing his pants halfway down his butt would make, and he said the statement would be that he wants a girlfriend. I told him he couldn’t be that stupid, that that only worked with prison inmates. So you see why I need to try to save his job. It’s for my sister’s sake.”

(Commissioners nod and mumble sympathetically)

The administrator called three witnesses to testify against the employee with sagging pants, one of whom said it was a safety issue. Another said it was a production issue.

“How can you dig a ditch with one hand on a shovel and the other holding up your pants?” the witness asked.

The third witness testified that his second cousin, Commissioner Marion Williams, didn’t like sagging pants, so he didn’t either.

After three hours of discussion, the mayor finally called for a vote. It would have been only two hours, but Williams wouldn’t stop talking about how he hated sagging pants.

“Commissioners, are you ready to vote?” the mayor asked. “Vote yes to uphold the termination. Vote no to overturn it.”

“It’s unanimous,” the clerk said. “10-0 to overturn.”

“Next case,” calls the administrator.

The Case of the non-Politically Correct Employee: The District 8 commissioner comes to the podium and says, “I’m here to speak on behalf of the employee who was fired for making insensitive racial remarks. What exactly did this employee do? He called his co-worker Julio. His co-worker is named Julio, but the ‘J’ is silent, as in Ooolio. Ooolio asked him to call him Ooolio and when he didn’t, Ooolio complained to the director, and the director fired the employee who wouldn’t say Ooolio.”

This case went on late into the evening and became so contentious that commissioners started calling each other names far worse than calling Ooolio Julio. In the end, they overturned the termination. I guess they were feeling guilty about the names they called each other.

Burning a Hole in Their Pockets: City officials are eager to spend the $380,000 they offered Gold Cross ambulance service to take as a subsidy for serving indigent patients after cutting the company’s budget by two-thirds. Sias wants to hire more people at animal services, equip them and raise the pay for some.

Others have different ideas. But maybe instead of haggling over how to spend the money, they should be thinking about using it to cover the declines in Augusta’s electrical franchise fees and sales tax collections that Finance Director Donna Williams informed them of in her first quarter financial report last week.

“A Mild Form of Plagiarism”: A review by the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper found that departing Richmond, Va., school Superintendent Dana Bedden copied text and used it without proper attribution throughout his 2006 doctoral dissertation at Virginia Tech.

Bedden was superintendent of schools in Richmond County, Ga., from 2007 to 2010, when he resigned after a dispute over performance pay. He was hired by the Irving Independent School District in Irving, Texas, in 2010 and resigned in 2013, amid dissatisfaction over the direction the district was going, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The report in Thursday’s edition of the Times-Dispatch, said Bedden’s 130-page paper “included large blocks of text taken almost word-for-word from court opinions and other academic publications without quotation marks or indentation.”

“Bedden cited the original sources, but made only minor edits to the reproduced text with little paraphrasing and none of the standard punctuation used to identify words that are not the author’s own, an apparent violation of Virginia Tech’s anti-plagiarism guidelines as well as the standards set for students in Richmond’s public schools,” the newspaper states.

“If I had to describe it I’d say it looks to me like a mild form of plagiarism,” David Sobel, a professor of ethics and political philosophy at Syracuse University, told the newspaper. “I do think the footnotes are a mitigating factor. If this were my student I would say that’s not OK and I wouldn’t pass it in that format.”

The school board had been reluctant to explain why Bedden was leaving, the report said, and after receiving a tip, the Times-Dispatch used software to analyze the dissertation “and found more than a dozen examples of large blocks of text reproduced from other sources with lax attribution.”

Bedden is leaving as superintendent June 30, two years before his contract expires, according to the article.

Guess A Lot of People Like Kinko’s Business Plan: Plagiarism-detection software might have been used to detect plagiarism in Mayor Hardie Davis’ column about a commission retreat that appeared in The Augusta Chronicle in 2015.

When the plagiarism was detected, Davis said “multiple people” helped him write the column, which contained eight paragraphs copied from a Seattle consultant’s 2013 blog post. But he declined to identify them or explain how the plagiarized material got inserted into the column.

He did promise, however, to put safeguards in place to prevent future plagiarism.