Stadium plan, no-confidence vote on agenda

A new stadium home for the Augusta GreenJackets and rescinding the city administrator's "exclusive" authority to recommend candidates for top city jobs are up for debate during today's regular meeting of the Augusta Commission.

 

General counsel Andrew MacKenzie's job performance will be up for discussion, too, after Commissioner Bill Lockett, who has clashed with MacKenzie, placed giving the city's top lawyer a no-confidence vote on today's agenda.

Commissioner Joe Jackson's proposal -- for City Administrator Fred Russell to "develop a financial package relative to the proposed Ripken Multipurpose Stadium" -- returns for discussion today after Commissioner Matt Aitken's similar proposal failed to receive six votes two weeks ago.

Commissioner Al Mason's suggestion, which passed, was to place the stadium on the 2012 general election ballot, but nonbinding questions aren't legal on Georgia general election ballots.

Amending the city's new personnel manual to remove the word "exclusive" from a section delineating the administrator's authority was placed on today's agenda by Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle.

Guilfoyle, however, said the suggestion is not new; he called Lockett two weeks ago to suggest the change, although Lockett never called him back.

"I'm still trying to reach out," Guilfoyle said. "You've got to have communication to have trust."

The word appeared to be a sticking point for the city's four black commissioners and plaintiffs in a civil suit, who have alleged that the increase in Russell's authority is an illegal adjustment to the city's form of government, prohibited by the city charter.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who originally proposed giving the administrator exclusive authority to recommend department heads as a compromise, disagreed with taking out "exclusive" and called deleting it "a concession to make some commissioners happy."

"I think it will take what little power we gave to Fred Russell away from him," Brigham said. "I don't think it will stop any lawsuit, either."

Lockett's agenda item caught most of his commission colleagues by surprise, including Guilfoyle, who has called for instituting evaluations of top city employees.

"I think we should put them all on notice," Guilfoyle said.

MacKenzie has led the city's in-house law department since Chiquita Johnson resigned at the start of 2010. Johnson was just the second in-house general counsel since the office was created in 2007. Previously, the general counsel wasn't a full-time city employee.

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