Mason blasts proposed changes

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After missing three meetings where changes to Augusta's personnel manual were detailed and approved, Commissioner Alvin Mason unleashed a nearly 30-minute diatribe against the changes Monday.

Commissioner Alvin Mason had missed three meetings at which city restructuring was discussed.   Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Commissioner Alvin Mason had missed three meetings at which city restructuring was discussed.

Mason, who attributed his absences to mandatory training for his federal job, insisted that the changes, part of City Administrator Fred Russell's restructuring plan for city government, were not being done "in the right manner."

Mason reiterated a claim previously made by Commissioner Bill Lockett that the changes stealthily accomplish a switch in Augusta's form of government and require amending the city charter, which takes eight commission votes -- more than the six the proposal got Feb. 1.

The claim runs counter to opinions prepared by General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie, who has said the proposed changes are legal but won't publicly elaborate, citing attorney-client privilege.

Russell's Jan. 21 presentation on the restructuring plan had gone on "ad nauseam," Mason said, and left no time for discussion or dialogue, "so, unfortunately, we're going to get some of that today."

Mason said he wanted more data and a side-by-side cost comparison on the proposal.

Several minutes later, Russell responded that he was unsure Mason's concerns were "germane" to the discussion about the manual.

"Let me see if I can't clear it up for you," Mason retorted, reading passages from the manual giving the administrator hiring and firing authority and final authority over employment issues.

"There's reorganization within that," he said. "I should not see this type of verbiage. You have now become a management form of government, and you cannot do that without a charter change."

Mason also questioned the personnel manual's giving Russell veto power over actions of Augusta's personnel board.

"If you're getting the final say, that's a management form of government," Mason said.

Russell responded that he was "more than available for dialogue" and that Mason was "not completely accurate" about some of the issues, but Mason interrupted.

"No, this one's going to be done this way," he said. "We're going to have this dialogue, and I don't see why we shouldn't have this dialogue, just to make sure that it's done correctly."

"Just don't cut off the administrator in midsentence," Commissioner Jerry Brigham said.

Mason accused Brigham of having "something to hide" in the substitute motion he offered to pass the manual last week, which gave Russell exclusive authority to recommend people to department-head positions, apparently instead of what the manual designated -- power to hire department heads.

"It's a play on words is what it is," Mason said. "Unless Mr. Brigham's talking about removing that language in particular, redacting that, and inserting the new language."

Twenty-nine minutes of commentary later, Mason asked MacKenzie to speak.

A lot of the issues were "specifically addressed" in two written opinions MacKenzie has presented to the commission, he said.

"The real question is what can you do before you get to the point where you're changing to a management form of government, and that's carefully outlined in the opinion," MacKenzie said. "I take that charter very seriously. Nobody is more concerned about whether (the changes are) done right than me."

After an earlier closed legal meeting of the entire commission, a motion to release the opinions to the public was derailed by Brigham's voting "no" on adding it to the agenda.

Lockett said that he welcomed releasing the documents before "a new set of eyes" and that they gave his concerns some merit.

He also read from a Georgia Municipal Association legal opinion that called the assignment of duties given to a mayor and commission to the administrator "a slippery slope" that might be "impermissibly changing the form of government."

The full commission is scheduled to vote on a second reading of the actions during its next regular meeting.

IN OTHER BUSINESS
  • After a closed legal meeting, the Augusta Commission  OK'd settling two claims made in condemnation actions, authorizing payment of $7,500 to Keisha Martin, in addition to a payment of $30,000 when the city condemned her property for public use last year; and $77,280 to James L. Hamrick, in addition to an earlier payment of $52,720 made in  2009, according to resolutions authorizing the settlements.
  • The  Engineering Services Committee signed off on a consent agreement and $51,800 fine from the Environmental Protection Agency that resulting from a June 13 chlorine spill at Augusta Utilities' Peach Orchard Road facility. Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier said an "operator trainee" who remains employed failed to report the spill  because of lack of training, but that there was no danger to the public.
  • The Finance Committee took no action on funding a $160,000 firefighter wellness initiative of physicals, occupational and agility fitness testing that was added to the agenda by Commissioner Jerry Brigham  before the meeting.
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Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/07/11 - 11:21 pm
0
0
Isn't it interesting that

Isn't it interesting that those who oppose the reorganization are pushing to release MacKenzie's opinion and those who support it want to keep it hidden from the public eye?

What does that say?

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 02/08/11 - 02:32 am
0
0
30 minutes of wasted time for

30 minutes of wasted time for a few hundred people that will never regain that time back again. Commissoners should be limited in time to speak only about that which they really know - this would certianly cut all conversations drastically.

Misses 3 meetings that we pay him to be at and then he wishes to lamblast everyone trying to make our city better and stay within budgets as well as have rules for employees and someone that can actually fire them when they don't do their jobs.

the_source
0
Points
the_source 02/08/11 - 02:52 am
0
0
It's because of bickering and

It's because of bickering and pettiness like that outlined in this news story that Augusta, especially South Augusta, is being overrun by crime and gangs. Rather than do what's good for the people of Augusta, these idiots would rather try to argue and waste time, as well as taxpayer money, just to prove that they are right on anything, no matter how trivial.

Augusta could be such a nice city if not for the incompetent morons in charge. The saying is true, you can't fix stupid. And until you get these morons out of office, you can't fix Augusta either.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/08/11 - 02:56 am
0
0
I'm putting my money on two

I'm putting my money on two things...

1) MacKenzie's opinion is going to be released sooner or later.

2) His opinion is going to make someone looking really bad.

usapatriot
0
Points
usapatriot 02/08/11 - 03:10 am
0
0
Mandatory training is

Mandatory training is scheduled in advance. You knew the dates or could have found out. These things work on annual schedules.

If you can't make City meetings, give up your seat and give back your pay. You were elected to represent your district. You were absent 3 times. You cannot fulfill your duties. Let someone serve that district that can attend regular meetings.

Now, when you get to a meeting, you stand in the way of progress. Save ARC the money and problems, resign.

usapatriot
0
Points
usapatriot 02/08/11 - 03:12 am
0
0
Who/what is this man's

Who/what is this man's district? I'd be mad as hell that he ran to represent but has been absent.

Riverman1
82400
Points
Riverman1 02/08/11 - 05:29 am
0
0
Absolutely nothing has

Absolutely nothing has changed in Augusta. When the blacks regain control of the Commission they won't be taking prisoners. Puzzling about Jerry Brigham not wanting the attorney's opinion released.

juantez
233
Points
juantez 02/08/11 - 06:25 am
0
0
Riverman1..What's your
Unpublished

Riverman1..What's your point** When the blacks regain control of the Commission they won't be taking prisoners*****

rmwhitley
5542
Points
rmwhitley 02/08/11 - 07:05 am
0
0
If your elected position
Unpublished

If your elected position conflicts with your means of earning money, a priority must be set. Mason, a FEDERAL worker, seems to be using union tactics, to me. Is Richmond county government a union organization?

Brad Owens
4290
Points
Brad Owens 02/08/11 - 09:15 am
0
0
I expect more from a Senior

I expect more from a Senior NCO.

I don't know Mason on a personal level but my question to him would be this; why do you oppose this and what is YOUR solution?

I was excited a retired senior NCO was elected because I figured we could get some backbone into the commission, but this looks like EXACTLY what it is. Grandstanding

Everyone should sit up and take note who is pushing what here, because no one acts without a reason to.

What is Mason's angle? That this is not 'legal' and must be done a different way? That we are fine and everything works so no changes need to be made? If so, I point to the folks that got caught stealing and were given thier jobs back.

Also, I do like Jerry's point about beating up on Fred. There is no need not to be professional. That was one of my mistakes when I served on some boards, there is no time not to be civil unless people's lives are on the line.

Brad

seenitB4
85674
Points
seenitB4 02/08/11 - 09:35 am
0
0
the_sourceTuesday, Feb. 8

the_sourceTuesday, Feb. 8 1:52 AM bickering and pettiness like that outlined in this news story that Augusta, especially South Augusta, is being overrun by crime and gangs. Rather than do what's good for the people of Augusta, these idiots would rather try to argue and waste time, as well as taxpayer money, just to prove that they are right on anything, no matter how trivial.

the source----you took the words out of my mouth------this is the crazy deeds that keep people away from buying in Augusta.......do you see this countyman-----my folks want us to move back to CSRA & I tell them the gov. of Augusta is a joke--they can't get their act together---too busy postering for the crowd when they should concentrate on CRIME & doing the best for taxpayers in Augusta...
Same crazy acts in Dekalb & Fulton county too----who's in charge-who's on top--who's the big bossman.....what a joke!

justus4
99
Points
justus4 02/08/11 - 09:36 am
0
0
Mason has already lost this
Unpublished

Mason has already lost this one because the "FIX" is already in with the imbalance of the commission. When all is said and done, guess who will suffer most? Minorities employees will suffer disproportionately in the firing phase and with governmental votes falling along racial lines is to be expected. Minority commissioners must not allow this power grab to happen because it spells doom for their constituent tax payers and districts. A formal inquiry, by minority commissioners, should be requested to derail this unconstitutional attempt to control assets and resources by someone NOT elected by taxpayers. A scorched earth defense is required to stop this deliberate, arrogant, entitlement-minded approach to governing - a motion to remove the City Manager would be in order.

belle
305
Points
belle 02/08/11 - 09:41 am
0
0
River man, regarding your
Unpublished

River man, regarding your race card, I don't know Mason but I don know Lockett is a gentle, highly intelligent educated man who is VERY familiar with language and if he says it needs to be rewritten I believe him. I agree however with Brad that ranting about problems without offering a solution (in this case, suggesting better wording) is a waste of everyone's time and makes you look a fool.

belle
305
Points
belle 02/08/11 - 09:42 am
0
0
I DO know Lockett is a good
Unpublished

I DO know Lockett is a good man....

Austin Rhodes
2852
Points
Austin Rhodes 02/08/11 - 09:57 am
0
0
I am looking into all this,

I am looking into all this, but you do have to follow the law.

I do believe the CHANGES Jerry Brigham urged before the final vote were 100% legal. What was proposed before, was not. It was a convoluted solution to the problem, but a solution nonetheless.

If Mason, Lockett, and others have a problem...they can get an attorney and fight it. I hear Chiquita Johnson is available...

seenitB4
85674
Points
seenitB4 02/08/11 - 10:00 am
0
0
Funny Austin. lol

Funny Austin. lol

itscapt
14
Points
itscapt 02/08/11 - 10:15 am
0
0
It appears to me that Al

It appears to me that Al missed the meetings to avoid stepping up to the plate about something some of his constituents are passionately against. Now he's doing proforma posturing to show he is standing up for his folks. I hope the six votes will still be there at the next readings.

Riverrunner30909
149
Points
Riverrunner30909 02/08/11 - 10:32 am
0
0
Remember Masson when you
Unpublished

Remember Masson when you point a finger at another person there are 3 point back at you on your own hand.

dichotomy
32123
Points
dichotomy 02/08/11 - 10:54 am
0
0
The usual suspects will do

The usual suspects will do anything to thwart progress that may save money and infringe on their nepotism, cronyism, and patronage.

I don't know whether this will be found in violation of the city charter or not. I hope not, but it may be. And that is the point. The city charter basically prevents any changes to a structure that, after 20 years, has proven to be a failure. And it takes 8 commissioner votes to even try to get it changed. And that will never happen. Especially if you take a look at the makeup of our "legislative delegation". We are trapped in a miserable failure of a city charter that cannot be changed. For the rural county taxpayer it is income redistribution hell. They take our tax money and spend it all in the old city and they give us nothing. The county, you know, where all of the tax revenue comes from, is in a state of rot. I hope the usual suspects are proud of themselves for working to maintain the status quo. The only thing Consolidation accomplished was to take all of the tax money from rural residents and "consolidate" it downtown. The "City Charter" is such a bad document that 200 years ago it would have inspired an armed revolution. Only the idiots of RC would craft a document and make it impossible to change when it proved to be a failure. Of course, if you are one of the few districts who receive all of the benefits of the redistributed revenue, I guess you consider the city charter a success. The rest of us think it sucks. That is why we are moving to CC and NA and depleting your tax base. Yeh, you claim the population increased, but we all know it was the subsidy type, not the taxpaying type. We can look across a county line in any direction and see where your leadership stacks up and we see no hope for change. We will check back with you in 10 or 20 years to see how things are working out for you when all of the taxPAYERS are gone. There is a curtain of doom that hangs over RC and it is called the City Charter. Keep throwing up the road blocks Alvin. You've almost got it stopped now anyway. I don't think RC can be saved even if the reorganization went through unchallenged, but it was at least a step in the right direction.

seenitB4
85674
Points
seenitB4 02/08/11 - 11:03 am
0
0
You are right dichotomy.....I

You are right dichotomy.....I could be one of those tax-paying law abiding folks moving back to Richmond county but with this mess called "govmint" in the county.....It ain't gonna happen."

iLove
626
Points
iLove 02/08/11 - 11:27 am
0
0
So as a commissioner, you
Unpublished

So as a commissioner, you cannot ask for a debate of an issue without people in the public saying it is a waste of time???? WHAT?!?

Also, Mr. Lockett is HIGHLY intelligent.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 02/08/11 - 11:34 am
0
0
You can thank Charles Walker

You can thank Charles Walker and is ilk for the charter. Dichotomy I am in agreement with you on the entitlement crowd moving into Richmond County. Columbia County and Aiken County need their fair share. I met Mr. Mason once and he seems to be a nice person but I do believe he is doing a little grandstanding. The charter needs to be changed so the city can move forward.

Batman
18
Points
Batman 02/08/11 - 11:53 am
0
0
.

.

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 02/08/11 - 11:44 am
0
0
This isn't even a real news

This isn't even a real news story... The commission already got the six votes needed... I don't see what's the big deal because Alvin Mason doesn't agree with the vote.. He district voted for him to speak his mind on issues facing the community... Of course everybody isn't going to rush to jump on the bandwagon concerning giving Fred Russell more power...

While a large majority of the commission votes are unanimous, several of the votes aren't...

I don't know why some people brought up race because a black commissneer disagreed either... Corey Johnson is black and seems to not have a problem giving more power to Fred Russell...

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 02/08/11 - 11:59 am
0
0
WW1949... Aiken County and

WW1949... Aiken County and Richmond County already have about the same percentage of families living in poverty.. Whether a family is black or white they can still be poor... Just because Richmond County has a larger black percentage in population doesn't mean a good size of that population isn't middle class and up...

Costco wouldn't be opening in Richmod County this November if people with disposable income weren't moving here.... Especially since there aren't any Costco locations in GA outside of metro Atlanta. And the only Costco stores in South Carolina are in Greenville and Charleston.. For some reason a few people don't understand stores like Apple and Sephora have a location in Augusta but not in Columbia or Savannah...

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 02/08/11 - 11:51 am
0
0
dichotomy...fine comment I do

dichotomy...fine comment I do believe you covered every point....well said!

jones255
0
Points
jones255 02/08/11 - 12:14 pm
0
0
@countyman - I don't think

@countyman - I don't think I'd be holding up Corey Johnson - Mr. Take A. Colorado-Vacation. As stated above, the charter was crafted by Charles I'm in Jail Walker. So you know who it protects. Costco is coming to Augusta, and will shopped by mostly non-subsidy people from Richmond, Columbia, and Aiken counties. And it will give Sam's some competition.

seenitB4
85674
Points
seenitB4 02/08/11 - 12:33 pm
0
0
I'm sure Costco won't depend

I'm sure Costco won't depend on "just" Richmond county shoppers....we have a store near here...but I still like Sams the best.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 02/08/11 - 01:13 pm
0
0
Countryman. I know there is

Countryman. I know there is alot of money in Richmond County and there is alot of the entitlement crowd here. I never said black or white because I know there are both. I just said some of the other counties like Columbia county need to share the burden. Race had nothing to do with my comment.

jones255
0
Points
jones255 02/08/11 - 01:41 pm
0
0
And just why would Columbia

And just why would Columbia County WANT to share the burden?? Columbia County has its own brand of excitement. I guess the "money" in Richmond County doesn't care what happens - as long as their little piece of heaven isn't upset. The "entitlement" mentality (white or black), has got to go the way of the dinosaur, or as dichotomy said, check back in ten years, and see what's left.

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