Russell out of office, commissioners question raises

Augusta Commission members have their demands lined up for Fred Russell on today’s committee agendas, seemingly unaware that the city administrator will not be present.


An automatic reply from Russell’s e-mail address says he’ll be back in the office Wednesday.

Among the demands Russell won’t be around to hear include Commissioners Bill Lockett and Alvin Mason wanting across-the-board raises for all employees who did not receive them last month, when Russell awarded pay raises to 44 employees involved in an ongoing restructuring of city government.

The raises prompted the pair to call for Russell’s termination, and they were joined by Commissioners J.R. Hatney and Matt Aitken in voting to fire Russell, but the motion failed 6-4.

Lockett wants Russell and General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie to explain how the raises were retroactive to May 2, as retroactive pay raises are illegal. After Russell authorized the raises, the city’s payroll department cut the 44 employees checks for the amounts they would have made in May, June and July had the raises already been in effect.

Mason wants to talk about “salary increases, departmental reorganizations and reclassifications,” and get a report from Russell on the “methodology used to determine the percentage increases” awarded the 44.

Commissioner Corey Johnson, who surprised some of his constituents when he didn’t vote to fire Russell, also has several demands for the administrator.

Johnson wants a report on the city’s “present financial status, including any current deficit and its relationship to the budget.”

He’s also asked to suspend Russell’s authority to approve employee reclassifications, reorganizations and pay raises of up to 15 percent, as authorized in the personnel manual.

Lockett also has requested a status report on special purpose, local option sales tax projects 1-6, and an update on activities from the city’s Housing and Community Development Department, while Mason is seeking a status report from Heery International on the city’s capital projects.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham has requested a report on savings this year from personnel reductions. A report Russell mailed to commission members last week claimed $675,400 in savings during 2011 from the reorganization, but Brigham has called for more.

Also on today’s Finance Committee agenda is a request from the city’s Finance Department to require all employees to have their paychecks direct-deposited into a bank account or prepaid card as a way to save on printer ink and forms.

Local activist Larry Fryer has requested that a downtown bridge be named for former Augusta Mayor Ed McIntyre.

In the request, Fryer calls the late mayor “a visionary of progress” who “fostered racial and ethnic diversity” and “championed civil and human rights.”



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