One effort to clamp down on misuse of Augusta property by making employees sign a statement is encountering resistance from commission members who say the statement is insulting to staff and not needed.
Commissioner Sean Frantom said he called for the statement last week, in light of two landfill workers who were found in March with Augusta equipment on a private Lincoln County site. One worker, who retired days later, said he was acting at the direction of Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson. Johnson resigned last month over the incident.
Frantom’s request appears to have support from City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson, according to email correspondence. Jackson initiated an internal city investigation into the equipment misuse but has not released its findings, several commissioners said Friday.
Jackson assured Frantom in the emails that General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie would draft an “acknowledgement letter” and a few minutes before last week’s meeting, the letter was drafted.
With a blank line for the employee’s signature at the bottom, the letter restates existing personnel policies prohibiting removal of Augusta equipment for personal use or without consent, with a reminder that doing so may result in discipline, including termination, criminal charges or civil litigation.
Frantom said the letter lets employees know “there are serious repercussions” for misuse of city property, a detail that might be otherwise be “buried in the personnel policy and procedures manual.”
He’d hoped to have a discussion about the letter during last week’s meeting, but his motion to add the agenda item lacked unanimous consent and some commissioners said they hadn’t even looked at the draft.
“As leaders we needed to have a discussion in public about it,” Frantom said Friday.
Despite involvement by the administrator and law department, others on the 10-member commission called the letter a wasted effort. Commissioner Dennis Williams said the restatement was something “likely we don’t need” because of existing policies in the manual. Williams said “too much discussion” was taking place ahead of Jackson’s release of her findings.
Commissioner Ben Hasan, whose dissent kept the matter off the agenda last week, said Frantom was “pandering to the public” by calling for a restatement of employee rules that are already part of staff training.
“It minimizes what just happened, as if Mark (Johnson) didn’t know,” Hasan said. “I don’t agree with it.”
Commission Marion Williams also disagreed with the letter and questioned why it was drafted without the commission’s knowledge or approval.
“It’s crazy to ask a thief to pledge not to steal,” Williams said. “If it’s a thief, he’s going to steal.”
Williams said he’s had little success directing department heads to do even small things such as installing additional speakers at a weekly Augusta Common jazz concert, but expected commission approval before Jackson and MacKenzie drafted the letter.
“If I told Andrew to do something like that he’d probably tell me it took commission approval,” Williams said.
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