Augusta Commission members could well take a page out of GRU President Ricardo Azziz’s book and hire a media consultant to help improve their image.
On the other hand, it might be too late. A cheaper solution would be to just take a slow boat to China.
Commission rhetoric hit a new low at the most recent regular meeting. It all started when commissioners Joe Jackson, Donnie Smith, Grady Smith and Wayne Guilfoyle blocked a request from CSRA Business League President Ellis Allbright to meet with Administrator Fred Russell to discuss a proposed contract.
The league wants to help administer the city’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program for about $175,000. The opposing commissioners contend the city is already paying people to do that job and see no reason to pay other folks to do it too.
NOTHING BUT SOUR NOTES: When the vote to authorize the Allbright-Russell meeting failed, Commissioner Marion Williams let the hammer down.
“I’m really tired of sitting up here, pretending we’re all getting along,” he said. “Pretending everybody’s singing Kumbaya. We ain’t singing nothing up here. And it’s a disgrace. I’m really fed up. The man (Allbright) has been here three or four times asking just to put a conversation together, and we won’t even vote to do that.”
That prompted dire warnings about Augusta’s future and an exchange between Williams and Grady Smith, which was gaveled down by Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson.
IS IT JUST ME OR DO OUR BLACK COMMISSIONERS ONLY FIND FAULT WITH WHITE EMPLOYEES? Because Williams had put an item on the agenda calling for a no-confidence vote on General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie, he spoke first and accused the attorney of giving bad opinions and lying.
“He has flat-footed lied to us in this meeting,” Williams said.
He was just getting wound up good when Johnson interrupted to say Jackson and Grady Smith had a motion and a second on the floor to adjourn. So they voted, but the motion failed.
The delay, however, gave Williams time to get his second wind, to everyone’s eternal regret.
Next up was Commissioner Alvin Mason, whose complaint concerned an e-mail he’d sent MacKenzie with questions about a previous motion to change the times of committee and commission meetings. Mason spent far too long taking issue with the motion and MacKenzie’s lack of response to his e-mail, which seemed to irritate him most of all.
I could go into it all here, but try as I might, I couldn’t understand the intricacies of what Mason was saying, and life is too short anyway, so we’ll skip to Commissioner Bill Lockett, who accused MacKenzie of numerous flawed contracts and showing favoritism to certain commissioners.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll summarize Lockett’s complaints, which concerned what he said were the law department’s “flawed contracts” that have been “complete, abject failures.”
“We can start off with
the golf course,” Lockett said. “McKenzie from Scotland. Very poor contract. A thousand dollars a month. We didn’t collect on that. We ended up having to pay on that. Mobility Transit. Very, very poor
contract. Supposed to be saving us money. It cost us an exorbitant amount of money.”
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR A HOSTILE WORKPLACE AND SLANDER LAWSUIT: “Í refute all, if not substantially all, factual allegations in respect to what has been said,” MacKenzie responded.
“If I have said something you think is a lie, I’d appreciate it if you’d come to my office and understand all the relevant facts before you call me a liar in public. I’d appreciate at least that much respect before you come to a public meeting and slander me in that way …. These allegations are completely unfounded.”
CIVILITY. THY NAME IS WILLIAMS: When MacKenzie finished speaking, Donnie Smith apologized and came to his defense.
“I apologize, Andrew, because whether you give information contrary to what someone wants to hear, you should not have to be abused and called a liar in public,” Smith said.
“I don’t apologize,” Williams said. “If you lied in public, I’ll address you in public.”
Grady Smith also defended the attorney.
“The thing about it is a minute ago I’m getting a lecture about how this county will never get ahead, and then all the sudden you jump on a man like a pack of wolves,” he said. “You talk out one side of your mouth and then the other.”
Guilfoyle said he was “truly amazed” at what had taken place.
“Everybody in this room either worked for somebody or they currently work for somebody right now,” he said. “For their boss or superior to call them out on the floor and call them a liar. Disgrace them. Embarrass him. His family. His friends. You will never see me disrespect people the way that he just got disrespected. For this to happen, I’m truly embarrassed to be on the commission at this time.”
HOIST WITH THEIR OWN PETARD: “I think some of us are being a little hypocritical,” countered Bill Lockett. “For the past month, some of y’all have been working on rules of conduct for employees and public officials in government. Some of y’all are on that committee. The chairman of that committee (Donnie Smith) is sitting here now. And one of the things you said in here is: (Reads from the proposed ordinance)
“If the mayor or commission of Augusta has reason to believe a public official has violated the ethical requirements of this (ordinance), he or she may request that commissioners may authorize a formal investigation of such person by placing such request on the full commission agenda in accordance with procedural commission rules.
“An allegation can be made about one of us, and it goes on the full agenda,” Lockett added. “This is what y’all decided, and this is what we’re going to be talking about in a minute. How hypocritical can you be to say what we’re doing now is wrong?”
LICENSE AND INSURANCE CARD, PLEASE. AND CAN I INTEREST YOU IN A USED BIOLOGY BOOK? Commissioners voted to donate three used police cars to Paine College for use by their police, but first they want assurances the vehicles won’t be used for traffic enforcement on 15th Street, Laney-Walker Boulevard and Druid and Central avenues.
Donnie Smith said other campus police were acting like the state patrol.
“On Sunday morning at 9:15 I was on my way to church, and three MCG police cars had cars stopped on 15th Street,” he said. “Campus police should focus on protecting the students, alumni and buildings. The sheriff’s department is responsible for traffic enforcement.”
Commissioners told Russell to speak with officials from both schools about their concerns.
HELP WANTED: During her presentation to commissioners about her 15-year-old son receiving a black eye during a scuffle with deputies, Kenya James praised the Youth Explorer program that Sheriff Richard Roundtree has implemented to improve community relations.
“We need to try to teach the young adults the proper rapport with police officers,” she said. “How to act when they encounter a police officer. I’m a single parent. I’m raising two males, but I’m a female. I’m a girl raising a boy. So that’s why I don’t know what boys, especially black males, have to encounter, so therefore, outside help will be appreciated.”