Government

More News | | | Editor

Augusta Commission to examine personnel board's actions after two plant workers reinstated

  • Follow Government

Augusta commissioners are taking a hard look at the personnel board that reinstated two water treatment operators last week.

Topic: Augusta Commission
 - More coverage on this topic:

"I think they just made a stupid decision, personally," Commissioner Joe Bowles said during a committee meeting Monday. "They were reinstated because of what other people did."

On Wednesday the personnel board voted 8-1 to overrule a decision by Deputy City Administrator Robert Leverett to fire two water treatment operators accused of clocking each other in for hours they didn't work.

Only board member Chip Barbee opposed the decision.

The operators, John Allen and Santonia Dennis, were among six employees at the Augusta Utilities Department's Highland Avenue water treatment plant placed on administrative leave in March while Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier and auditor Baird and Co. conducted a probe.

Soon after, water treatment operators Anthony Hannah, Cliff Pittman and John Tucker received written warnings for being clocked out by someone else and went back to work. Their supervisor, Operations Manager Michael Hopkins, was demoted.

On Monday Wiedmeier acknowledged that plant management had "a problem," now being addressed by Interim Operations Manager Debra Beazley, but that he'd made the correct decision to fire only Allen and Dennis.

"I think I took the action that I thought was right, and my mind has not changed," Wiedmeier said.

He has said he opted not to fire Hannah, Pittman and Tucker because they acknowledged wrongdoing. But during the hearing, the three employees testified they'd never admitted to being clocked in or out by someone else and that they'd signed off on the warning letters so they could get back to work.

On Monday, Commissioner Don Grantham requested a closed-door meeting of the city finance committee with legal counsel to discuss the personnel board's action.

"What we need to do is make the personnel board a recommending authority to the administrator," said Commissioner Jerry Brigham, a member of the four-person committee.

The personnel board system was created before consolidation and "a majority of the commissioners" are unhappy with it, Brigham said.

The case was only the second personnel hearing that Augusta Interim General Counsel Andrew Mackenzie said the city had lost during his tenure.

Six years ago, before Mackenzie's tenure, the personnel board overturned the firing of animal control supervisor Bruce McClure. When McClure was terminated again this year, the board upheld his firing.

Changing the personnel board system will require changing the ordinance that established it, Brigham said.

Augusta Human Resources Director Rod Powell said he's awaiting a recommendation from Administrator Fred Russell before the two reinstated employees return to work.

The next step for the city or the employees is the court system, Powell said.

"Either party has the right to exhaust the administrative remedies," he said.

Powell said he thought Utilities had "solid evidence" in the case against the two but that the personnel board was likely looking for "consistency" in the penalties administered.

The process could have been better handled if his department had been involved from the outset of the investigation, Powell said.

Comments (29) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
justus4
113
Points
justus4 05/25/10 - 02:19 am
0
0
It's obvious whats happening
Unpublished

It's obvious whats happening here. First, the problem has not been properly identified and the leadership punished for their role - or lack of it. This comes down to the same ole thing; U guessed it. This attempt to "reinstate" particular employees, who committed the exact same offense is shameful. The pattern is clear to any informed observer that only certain employees will be punished even when the evidence is overwhelming. And that so-called personnel board, what is the minority makeup of that thing and how are individuals selected for those positions? Of course we already know the answers based solely on these flawed decisions and the disparate treatment recieved at their hands. Again, a shameful pattern that is totally predictable and reflects poorly on the entire Utilities Dept..

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 05/25/10 - 06:23 am
0
0
The charter and several

The charter and several ordinances need serious inspection and change. This incident just brings that to light.

chascush
0
Points
chascush 05/25/10 - 06:34 am
0
0
justus 4, “And that so-called

justus 4, “And that so-called personnel board, what is the minority makeup of that thing and how are individuals selected for those positions?”
What in the hell should the make-up of the personnel board have to do with it! The workers stole and should have been fired and anyone else that did the same.
justus4, you put race in everything, how sad.

Little Lamb
49078
Points
Little Lamb 05/25/10 - 06:55 am
0
0
If the city administrator

If the city administrator cannot fire employees who are caught cheating on their time cards, then this city is in a world of hurt.

corgimom
38451
Points
corgimom 05/25/10 - 08:29 am
0
0
The problem is that they

The problem is that they singled out two people. You either fire everybody or nobody, they are equally guilty.

You can't reprimand some and fire others.

And you can't reprimand others because they confessed to doing illegal activities and fire others because they didn't confess- that's a violation of Fifth Amendment rights.

Colis Ivey (she's black) is a member of the board. Harold Simon is the chairman. Chip Barbee is a member.

There are 12 members. Two are Legislative Delegation appointments and 10 are appointed by the A-RC commission, one by each commissioner.

So any inference that the board practices racial discrimination is delusional.

FIRE CRACKER
0
Points
FIRE CRACKER 05/25/10 - 10:21 am
0
0
commisioners were not in the

commisioners were not in the hearing so they do not know the lies that were told as well as the truth the.THE BOARD MADE THE RIGHT DECISION THEY DID NOT GO BY FEELINGS IT WAS DONE BY EVIDENCE AND TRUTH AND WHAT WAS RIGHT.

FIRE CRACKER
0
Points
FIRE CRACKER 05/25/10 - 10:16 am
0
0
commisioners were not in the

commisioners were not in the hearing so they do not know the lies that were told as well as the truth the.THE BOARD MADE THE RIGHT DECISION THEY DID NOT GO BY FEELINGS IT WAS DONE BY EVIDENCE AND TRUTH AND WHAT WAS RIGHT.

smAShT
42
Points
smAShT 05/25/10 - 10:38 am
0
0
ATTENTION EVERYBODY ----These

ATTENTION EVERYBODY ----These are the same operators who fill out federal documents bi-hourly...items such as lab bench sheets testing the quality of OUR water ...if they are forging their time card, who's to say they are not doing it in the water lab? Not only should they be fired but their state licenses should be suspended....What I do not understand is why doesn’t the Augusta Chronicle report on how this whole situation came to a head? Shouldn't we know that a important chemical was allowed to over-run for 24 HOURS!?!?! 3 shifts of employees allowed this to go unnoticed!!! Where is the punishment from that? Does it all fall on Michael Hopkins? I understand that state certified water operators are in demand but its no reason what so ever to keep people guilty of FORGERY around an area where transparent honesty is a priority.

Curlie56
9
Points
Curlie56 05/25/10 - 12:10 pm
0
0
Utilities is not the only

Utilities is not the only department in which this is happening! Look at the departments where the time is still being written in by the supervisors who are the real abusers of time. Look at the transit department...one of the largest abusers of time worked in the city...and still writing in their time! I believe time clocks are way overdue.
This utilities mess sounded personal from someone on the commission...was it?

if you are going to fight about money and time, fight about the money being paid out to employees who are being held on the job because of who they know and should have been fired. Check the classification of clerical employees especially, earning big checks and doing nothing. Commission needs to make sure they want to open this nasty can of worms!

corgimom
38451
Points
corgimom 05/25/10 - 12:27 pm
0
0
Let me see if I understand

Let me see if I understand this.

A bunch of people got caught. If you confessed your guilt, you got reprimanded.

If you didn't confess, but signed the warning letter, you got reprimanded.

If you didn't confess but didn't sign the warning letter, you got fired.

What? It's either grounds for immediate termination, or not.

ladydi
0
Points
ladydi 05/25/10 - 02:12 pm
0
0
corgimom: As crazy as it may

corgimom: As crazy as it may sound to anyone in private industry or the logical world, the decision to terminate the fibbers and reprimand the honest thieves was based on solid ground as per the Augusta Richmond County Employee Handbook. See Page 9 under the heading, “Violations Excluded from Progressive Discipline” which states immediate termination for “misrepresentation of important facts in seeking information in administrative process”. According to the Augusta Chronicle, this is exactly what two of the five did.

But that’s no longer important. What is important now is for the Personnel Board to inform the individuals what day they are officially expected to be back to work so they can call their buddies tohave them “punch in” and not lose any MORE pay that must be reimbursed…

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 05/25/10 - 04:19 pm
0
0
Firecracker, The evidence is

Firecracker, The evidence is in the videotapes... I will say no more as this is not over yet............

smAShT
42
Points
smAShT 05/25/10 - 04:26 pm
0
0
I have a feeling the EPD will

I have a feeling the EPD will take care of Fire Cracker since the city cant get rid of him....I guess your buddy didnt get to cook you breakfast on Monday morning at Highland!!!!

baronvonreich
1
Points
baronvonreich 05/25/10 - 08:30 pm
0
0
Augusta can't even get county

Augusta can't even get county employees to clock in and out or terminate them when they finally catch them, but many people trust them to build/manage a TEE center and pontential downtown baseball stadium. Geesh.

lsmith
105
Points
lsmith 05/26/10 - 07:06 am
0
0
justus4: Are you sure the
Unpublished

justus4: Are you sure the American Indians are not involved with this issue? Same ole same old, black vs white: You could find a way to make a racial statement about the second coming of the Lord.

lsmith
105
Points
lsmith 05/26/10 - 07:07 am
0
0
firecracker, calm down you
Unpublished

firecracker, calm down you might blow up

trueblood
0
Points
trueblood 05/26/10 - 05:48 pm
0
0
This isn't a racial issue,

This isn't a racial issue, this is a "rip off the county"issue. One of the dudes has been doing it at the plant as long as he's been there. It wasn't until the camera system at the plant documented it that he got caught. How do I know? I work with the guy! I have watched him leave and watched him come back hours later without benefit of clocking out. Every time someone would try to discipline him for say, a chemical spill, he would start threatening lawsuits. He is a bully...that throws fits when he doesn't get his way. He used to take the city truck, say he was going down town for "city business" and stay out for hours.... What a joke!
Both of them are using the city against itself, whining about race....anybody who steals from the city should be fired. Anyone who is that pathetic, that sorry, to do wrong and then start throwing the race card should be pitied. Those persons know what wrong they did, and they have to live with it. Hopefully their children have more class than their dads. I dread having to work with them again. And before anybody starts throwin the racial thang with me.......I ain't white. I am a minority just like him.

Spiceybird
0
Points
Spiceybird 05/26/10 - 09:04 pm
0
0
chascush, the personnel board

chascush, the personnel board is hand picked by the commissioners, and since a Highland water operator sent letters requesting the reinstatement of these two, it's not odd that the personnel board wilted in their behalf.

Spiceybird
0
Points
Spiceybird 05/26/10 - 09:06 pm
0
0
Mr. Bowles, while I

Mr. Bowles, while I appreciate that you strive to tackle the issues Augusta has, I really don't think that you have the power to set this mess straight.

Little Lamb
49078
Points
Little Lamb 05/27/10 - 07:28 am
0
0
Corgimom said: You can't

Corgimom said:

You can't reprimand some and fire others.

Well, yes you can. I applaud new Utilities director Tom Wiedmeyer for attempting to improve lax practices that have gone on for decades at the water plant, wastewater plant, and out in the community in the piping system repairs. He obtained evidence that some employees were cheating on the time clock system. He confronted those employees. Some admitted their guilt and said they would try to do better in the future. Two of them, however, denied they had done anything wrong.

In my opinion, it is proper to administer less punishment for the ones who admitted their guilt and to administer more punishment for the ones who lied on top of cheating the city out of their wages.

Does anyone else see it the same way?

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 05/27/10 - 01:41 pm
0
0
I guess to be employed for

I guess to be employed for Augusta Utilities you must have three things. To be able to fog a mirror to be a coward or a liar.

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 05/27/10 - 01:43 pm
0
0
To the original whistle

To the original whistle blower a true friend of mine. As a taxpayer I thank you, As a friend I am proud of you. As a Augustan I cant wait to vote for you in 2012.

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 05/27/10 - 01:47 pm
0
0
Mr. Joe Bowles you are truly

Mr. Joe Bowles you are truly the highest of quality of our elected officials in Augusta wish you were still a republican and not a libiterian so our party could claim you.

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 05/27/10 - 02:14 pm
0
0
IRISH, I CONSIDER MYSELF MORE

IRISH, I CONSIDER MYSELF MORE OF A CONSTITUTIONALIST. WE NEED GOV'T FOR PUBLIC SAFETY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 05/27/10 - 02:37 pm
0
0
My mistake Mr. Bowles no

My mistake Mr. Bowles no disrespect toward you. The issue at hand now that everyone knows the personal board was tampered with I think most would agree with me that those involved should be held accountable for there actions as well as the county commissioners they represented. This just prooves how corrupt some of the county commissioners are if this is allowed. I know for a fact some persicution has been given to the original whistle blower which is not fair. I hope this issue can be resolved for the benifit of everyone who drinks the water produced by the highland plant.

phantom
0
Points
phantom 05/27/10 - 09:00 pm
0
0
trueblood, I know exactly how

trueblood, I know exactly how you felt, I too have been abandoned by this operator, and sometimes it was hard having to do everything and run that plant by myself. But what gets me is that Michael Hopkins has really pulled it off! He knew exactly what was going on, because employees like you and me went to him and told him so! But he isolated himself in his office because he was a coward. and this isn't his first demotion! He was demoted because he falsified data in the lab! He was bumped back to an operator, then made a manager and thought he was untouchable. . . just like our man.

phantom
0
Points
phantom 05/27/10 - 09:19 pm
0
0
I don't see it as a racial

I don't see it as a racial issue, unless you would consider the fact that certain people make it so, like the Highland politican, (the person who wrote the redemption letters), certain commissioners, and the two thiefs. They squawk about favoritism, but yet it's not so when John Allen met with certain black commissioners last summer regarding being placed as the Highland Superintendent. No one else was invited to discuss the opportunity. No this isn't racial. Augusta has an Ethics Code, but for some reason certain commissioners feel this code doesn't apply to them, just everyone else.

HotDiva01
0
Points
HotDiva01 05/27/10 - 11:46 pm
0
0
I am just wondering Where was

I am just wondering Where was all of this when B.B. Langham was bringing this all to light???????? Why are these people standing with him now???????

phantom
0
Points
phantom 05/28/10 - 02:28 pm
0
0
When you provide a life

When you provide a life element such as water, it is crucial that it be the best as possible. When you have a few people that care what is delievered to the public, to the taxpayers children, parents, hospitals, schools, etc., and they're doing all the work all the time there comes a point where you feel like you're going to burst. If B.B. Langham did bring all this to light, then he did the right thing, and there's more people standing with him than is known.

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 05/28/10 - 03:03 pm
0
0
As a taxpayer im angry that

As a taxpayer im angry that this board overturned a decision made by a director. I am proud however that Chip Barbee stood his ground and voted for it not too be overturned.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs