Commission expected to discuss Russell's interim replacement in closed-door meeting

 

 

Augusta commissioners will give further consideration to a severance package for City Administrator Fred Russell as well as who will serve as his interim replacement at a called, closed-door meeting Tuesday.

The 1:30 p.m. meeting is for the expressed purpose of discussing “personnel,” which is one of a handful of exemptions to Georgia government transparency laws.

The commission voted 7-0 last week to fire Russell, the city’s administrator since January 2005, effective Dec. 31.

Russell is eligible for six months’ salary and benefits if terminated for any reason besides breaking the law. He also signed an employment agreement in 2005 that grants him six months’ pay and benefits if he’s terminated.

“We should give him what we owe him,” Commissioner Bill Fennoy said.

The commission is undecided about who will serve until Russell’s replacement is hired through a nationwide search.

Several commissioners – Fennoy, Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson and Bill Lockett – say Deputy Administrator Tameka Allen is the natural choice for interim administrator. The city’s other deputy administrator, Bill Shanahan, resigned in August to accept another position.

“She’s there, it would make sense,” Johnson said.

“It’s obvious that it should be our deputy, Tameka Allen,” Fennoy said.

Allen, however, serves dual roles as deputy administrator and Information Technology director.

Lockett said that her roles shouldn’t be an issue, as her two deputy IT directors can step in to assist, as deputy administrator and interim IT director.

Other commissioners think someone with fewer immediate ties to city government should serve in the interim.

Commissioner Donnie Smith said recently retired Planning and Development Director George Patty should be asked to serve.

“I think he’s an independent voice” who is “not trying to advocate for the job permanently,” Smith said.

While Allen is likely qualified and welcome to apply, the commission is committed to using a search firm to recruit nationwide for the job, Johnson said.

Besides the leadership discussion, the commission has so many large items on Tuesday’s agenda that several commissioners said they doubted they’d get to them all, or might postpone some to the new year.

Other business on the agenda includes:

• Authorizing the Urban Redevelopment Agency of Augusta to issue up to $28.5 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds to complete ongoing renovations of Augusta Municipal Building and construction of a new adjacent information technology building and pay expenses, with debt service of no more than $3 million a year to come from the city’s next sales tax package. This is the same package Russell originally proposed to designate all of downtown as a slum, but has been modified to include only certain downtown areas and avoid the use of the term.

• Creating a downtown Tax Allocation District 4 from parcels included in the city’s large TAD 1. The districts allow property tax increments above a baseline level to be reinvested in infrastructure and other incentives for business within the district boundaries.

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