A push for closure on the matter of three Augusta commissioners doing business with the city isn’t getting much help from one of the three, Super District 10 Commissioner Grady Smith.
Smith, who admitted doing business under city contracts more than once, including an ongoing subcontract Smith Brothers Mechanical has on an Augusta Utilities construction project at Fort Gordon, insisted Friday that his company was doing business with Tetra Tech, the general contractor on the $33.8 million city water and sewer project.
Subcontract in hand, Smith argued at a Friday meeting with General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie about what it said: Listed as “owner” of the project is Tetra Tech, while Smith Brothers’ subcontract is shown as being with Tetra Tech subcontractor Larry Pittman & Associates.
“I was painted like I was doing something dishonest,” Smith said Friday. “That (Pittman) was the guy that approached us. He’s the general; we were the sub. Who does that say was the owner?” he asked, pointing to the contract.
The commission begins a new committee meeting cycle Monday under the specter of last Tuesday’s censure of Smith and Commissioners Joe Jackson and Wayne Guilfoyle, a move that Guilfoyle and Jackson said later in the week they were glad to have behind them.
During the meeting, Commissioner Donnie Smith motioned to close evidence against each of the three commissioners after each made a brief statement admitting the ethics violations, and to make a decision on their punishment that day, in the open.
“There has been an admission by all three commissioners. I don’t need a lot of discussion on that because it’s happened,” Commissioner Alvin Mason said. Motions to censure all three passed.
Guilfoyle said the matter caused his family and the commission much “embarrassment” and that all were glad to put it behind them. He said his non-use of a city gas card, phone or insurance was evidence of his not seeking office for personal gain.
“The good thing about this is it’s put a line in the sand that everybody has to comply with,” Guilfoyle said.
Guilfoyle and Jackson agreed to abstain from doing city business for two years after they leave office, while Smith’s firm remains in the middle of the job at Fort Gordon.
“I’m hurrying as fast as I can to finish,” Smith said Friday. “I told everybody in my office we’re not bidding anything to do with the county.”
Commissioner Marion Williams, who with Commissioner Bill Lockett led the charge to investigate the three commissioners, said the move might have further divided the already-fractious commission, despite the group having “bigger fish to fry.”
“In some ways it probably brought us closer, but in a lot of ways it probably divided us because people don’t understand. They think we’re after somebody,” Williams said. “I don’t know if there was anybody else involved or not; if I find out there is somebody else involved, I think they ought to be exposed in the same way.”