Dousing the firestorm

Tornadoes and hurricanes are highly destructive forces, but at least they're seasonal.


Political firestorms, on the other hand, bring their own form of destruction - and they know no particular season, at least in Augusta.

The firing of former Public Works Director Teresa Smith became just such a firestorm in 2005, with racially charged and heated Augusta Commission proceedings that hang in the city hall air to this day.

In recent months, some Augusta commissioners, perhaps as a payback for Smith's firing, tried to unearth enough dirt to get longtime parks and recreation head Tom Beck fired. The best they could manage was a short suspension and yearlong probation.

Then, another firestorm whipped up when city staff attorney Vanessa Flournoy was found to be using her county computer for a side business doing real estate closings. She has resigned with a severance package.

Now, her boss - City Attorney Eugene Jessup - has been asked to resign by commissioners who only four months ago hired him.

Along the way, Commissioner Calvin Holland appointed himself city supervisor and recently demanded the hard drive of city Administrator Fred Russell while Russell was on vacation - again, for all appearances a thinly veiled tit-for-tat for the Flournoy hard drive dust-up.

Holland was censured by his colleagues, but now Commissioner Marion Williams is taking up for Holland and taking off after Russell.

Let's cut to the chase: If the Augusta Commission were your human resources manager, you'd fire it summarily for its utter failure to hire and fire properly and to bring stability and professionalism to the workplace.

Wait a minute! The commission is your human resources manager.

Time to fire the commission, at least from its hiring and firing role, which it has completely fouled up.

City employees, in particular department heads, need to know whom they report to. And they shouldn't be able to hold onto jobs merely because they've garnered the favor of five or six of the 10 commissioners. Serving at the pleasure of a political group makes personnel decisions political ones. That's messy and inefficient and rewards political prowess over work station competence.

It's time to change the government charter to give the city administrator hiring and firing authority. Bring more professionalism, and less politics, to city hall.

If you had the key to preventing tornadoes and hurricanes, you'd use it, wouldn't you?

Doesn't the same go for political firestorms?



Tue, 08/15/2017 - 23:25

Let’s do the right thing the hard way