Water workers reinstated

Two water treatment operators fired in March for time-card tampering get to keep their jobs.

Augusta's personnel board made the decision Wednesday, at the end of a 5 1/2-hour hearing that pointed out inconsistencies in operations at the city's Highland Avenue water treatment plant.

"The way it sounded, everyone at the plant had been running in and out," personnel board member James Riles said. "All of them were guilty of the same crime, and if you're going to fire one, you should fire them all."

With the action, water treatment operators John Allen and Santonia Dennis will return to their positions and receive back pay, Human Resources Director Rod Powell said.

All five employees investigated in October for time-card tampering testified Wednesday, including former plant manager Michael Hopkins, who was demoted after the probe.

Hopkins, plant operations manager for two years, said he "was not aware of anybody doing anything" improper at the plant.

All five had said the same thing, when questioned by auditors from Baird and Company, who gathered and analyzed evidence in the city's internal investigation.

Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier said he'd recommended firing for Allen and Dennis because they'd denied any knowledge of time-card improprieties.

Wiedmeier presented video stills that appeared to show either Allen or Dennis near the time clock at the time the other's time card got punched, on two occasions in October. "It's more obvious if you're watching the video," Wiedmeier told the personnel board.

The other employees said they'd only agreed to accept punishments so they could get back to work.

"I totally disagree with that letter there," testified Anthony Hannah, about the warning letter he'd received.

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