Solution to mayoral power not likely today

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The debate over who's in charge of Augusta government is unlikely to be resolved at today's Augusta Commission meeting, despite Mayor Deke Copenhaver's request last week to "call the question."

Deke Copenhaver: Mayor said he and the commission should focus on establishing what kind of government they have.   Corey Perrine/File
Corey Perrine/File
Deke Copenhaver: Mayor said he and the commission should focus on establishing what kind of government they have.

"After considering it further, what we have to do is go to the root of it: the charter, the consolidation bill," Copenhaver said.

Interpretations of those documents in a legal opinion by the Office of Legislative Counsel found Copenhaver to be Augusta government's chief executive, empowered with sole authority to hire and fire employees, including the city administrator. The opinion, which was requested by Augusta-area legislators, contrasts markedly with one prepared by Augusta's general counsel.

Although General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie subsequently prepared ordinances designating hiring and firing duties to the mayor, they weren't ready in time to be placed on today's agenda, and Copenhaver said he's ready to go in another direction instead.

"The discussion that the commission and myself need to be having is what kind of government do we want to be," the mayor said. "After 15 years, it's still open to debate as to what form of government we are."

Copenhaver wants the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia to review the documents and make recommendations for revisions that create "a professionally run, efficient and effective government."

The legal opinions offering conflicting interpretations of the documents have been sent to the office of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, however.

MacKenzie sent a letter to Olens last week posing four specific questions about the powers held by Augusta's mayor and commission, whether such powers could be delegated and, if so, whether it takes a two-thirds majority of the commission for passage.

Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, said Copenhaver asked him Friday to make a similar request for an opinion from the attorney general.

A response to the request is probably a month away and is not binding, a spokeswoman for Olens said.

The office is willing to help local governments but does not write binding opinions for anyone except its state government clients, who do not include Georgia legislators or municipalities, spokeswoman Lauren Kane said.

Regardless, Howard, Copenhaver and several Augusta Commission members have said they welcome the advisory opinion from the state's top lawyer.

Copenhaver said he would like to see the government function under the attorney general's guidelines until Augusta's charter can be revised.

Howard differed with Copenhaver's proposal to have the Vinson Institute review the charter, saying there are "bright enough minds within the city that can participate in a process that's fair to everyone."

Though there are no charter conversations on today's meeting agenda, the document that spurred controversy over how city government operates -- a new personnel manual -- is up for discussion again.

Bill Lockett and two other commissioners refused to attend a meeting Friday on the handbook, saying further discussion was futile until the attorney general issued his opinion on whether giving City Administrator Fred Russell greater authority constituted a change in Augusta's form of government.

"How can you approve a personnel manual with six votes, when delegating authority to the administrator takes two-thirds of the commission (to approve)?" Lockett said, also taking issue with the manual's placing Russell over the actions of the city personnel board. "We'd be abdicating our responsibility if we did that."

Lockett lamented the change in tone among members of the commission, which appeared to agree on more things last year and rarely had the 7-3 and 6-4 splits it has recently had.

"After the last elections and everybody started speaking of the six votes -- I think that was the beginning of the downfall," Lockett said, but added, "I don't think the wound is so deep it can't be healed."

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Riverman1
94244
Points
Riverman1 02/28/11 - 08:27 pm
0
0
What a disappointment. I

What a disappointment. I wanted to see the fun tomorrow. Now it appears Deke is backing away from it. Shaking my head.

david jennings
625
Points
david jennings 02/28/11 - 08:45 pm
0
0
This confusion over the

This confusion over the "charter"only proves that when legislators approved consolidation they voted on a document they hadnt read or didnt understand.Now 15 or so years later we still dont know whos in power.Even an uneducated man like me can see what fools are running the show.

Jim-bob
1
Points
Jim-bob 02/28/11 - 09:19 pm
0
0
Augusta, The Welfare City. So

Augusta, The Welfare City. So glad I left!

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 02/28/11 - 09:37 pm
0
0
If you have to keep asking if

If you have to keep asking if you have any power, you don't.

TeaPartyForOurCountry
0
Points
TeaPartyForOurCountry 02/28/11 - 10:19 pm
0
0
HEY AUGUSTA IS HEADED INTO

HEY AUGUSTA IS HEADED INTO THE GUTTER WITH ALL THE WRONG PEOPLE IN IT. WAY TO MUCH GOVERNMENT AND THEY DO NOT KNOW WHO IS IN CHARGE BUT THE MAYOR OR THE ADMINISTRATOR.

Asitisinaug
4
Points
Asitisinaug 02/28/11 - 10:29 pm
0
0
Deke, Step up to the plate -

Deke, Step up to the plate - WE elected you by a great majority so just step up, do your job, be a leader, take the authority and run with it - get things done, make things happen, be a leader.

WoodyKaminer
2
Points
WoodyKaminer 02/28/11 - 10:42 pm
0
0
Deke, dont be a wuss. They

Deke, dont be a wuss. They already said you have the power to do something. Why do you keep asking everybody else if its true. Make decisions, if the commissioners dont like it, they can get a 2/3 vote and change your decision. Dang Deke, grow a pair how bout it.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 02/28/11 - 10:45 pm
0
0
Glad you left too jim-bob. We

Glad you left too jim-bob. We do not need naysayers like you. Augusta may have it's welfare problems but it is still thriving ans is growing.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/28/11 - 11:02 pm
0
0
The only opinion that matters

The only opinion that matters is one issued by a judge.

If anyone (Deke, MacKenzie, Lockett, Howard, etc.) really wanted to settle things, they would seek a declaratory judgment and be done with it.

I thought the circus left town when the Coliseum Authority was cleaned up. Apparently, it didn't.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 02/28/11 - 11:56 pm
0
0
Riverman1, we have

Riverman1, we have conflicting reports on what's going down tomorrow. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGdZZq0_Pgc decide for yourself

Brad Owens
4914
Points
Brad Owens 03/01/11 - 02:38 am
0
0
Deke "Ironman" Copenhaver

Deke "Ironman" Copenhaver (The Mandate Mayor) needs a backbone operation.

You would not need to tell me twice nor would I want some meaningless group to produce a non-binding 'opinion' about it either.

The Ironman is go and Deke 'The Meek' has returned.

Brad

Riverman1
94244
Points
Riverman1 03/01/11 - 04:33 am
0
0
Omnomnom, haha, Deke looked

Omnomnom, haha, Deke looked so tough chastising the preacher. Mary Ditz and the gang make a sitcom out of the nonsense we all see with Deke and the Commission.

Were we right in our descriptions of Deke or what? Wouldn'nt you rather have anyone other than Deke leading the fight to claim the mayor's powers? I mean give me that street radio guy with the voice, a wino who hollers at traffice. Any dang body.

By the way, you have to love that photo of Deke. It looks like he did a secret boo boo that only he knows about.

augustarookie
301
Points
augustarookie 03/01/11 - 06:38 am
0
0
Deke....we need you to take

Deke....we need you to take charge and not be so indecisive.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 03/01/11 - 07:59 am
0
0
Poor Mayor Deke. He wants

Poor Mayor Deke. He wants too; he just can't. He is a people pleaser with a fear of conflict. It's amazing he wanted the office.

seenitB4
98477
Points
seenitB4 03/01/11 - 08:15 am
0
0
GEEEZ...where is the

GEEEZ...where is the backbone??
We need a Gov. Christie attitude---calling Gov. Christie please.....can you come over to Augusta Ga. & help us ......

dichotomy
37614
Points
dichotomy 03/01/11 - 08:49 am
0
0
Anybody waiting for Deke to

Anybody waiting for Deke to take charge has got a long wait. I don't think I have ever seen someone in an executive posistion with less of a "take charge" attitude.

Augusta has been paralyzed for 15 years and always will be under our charter. And like any uncared for paralysis patient, we are drowning in our own mucous and bedsores have developed on the south end. The paralysis patient needs to be turned over. Our city charter and our politicians need to be overturned.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 03/01/11 - 09:28 am
0
0
So it does not seem to be
Unpublished

So it does not seem to be JUST the African American commissioners, AS SOME WILL SAY IT, that are stiffling the progress in Augusta.

The ENTIRE commission could use a make-over. . . . .more younger, vibrant, and brave leaders.

But hey, even with this CONFUSED BUNCH OF LEADERS, Augusta is on the up and up. Imagine what it could be with the right leadership.

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 03/01/11 - 09:31 am
0
0
dichotomy: I agree with you

dichotomy: I agree with you completely! I say again Augustan's wake up! 2012 will be our chance with local and state elections in our area from commission seat to state house and senate seats. We can only help our selves. 2012 will be our time for our voices to be heard and there is no louder sounding voice for a citizien than at the election polls. It is time to replace all of the weak links and improove our city at both the local and state level. Great post again dichotomy.

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 03/01/11 - 09:36 am
0
0
iLove: We need more than a

iLove: We need more than a change on our commission we also need a change in the elected officials we send to Atlanta in the state house and senate. Augusta/Richmond County is a laughing stock thanks to some of the people we choose to elect to office.

Riverman1
94244
Points
Riverman1 03/01/11 - 10:17 am
0
0
They say Calvin Cooledge was

They say Calvin Cooledge was so shy he used to hide behind the curtains at the White House when visitors came. Deke hides in an Ironman wetsuit in the Savannah River.

countyman
21682
Points
countyman 03/01/11 - 11:13 am
0
0
Once the legal opinion from

Once the legal opinion from the attorney general decides whether it takes six or eight votes.. Let's give the power to the mayor(elected official) rather than the city administrator Fred Russell. Then the city needs to make several changes to the poorly written charter.. In order to run a effective government people must come to a comprimise..

I find it funny somebody saying Augusta is the laughing stock of GA... Considering the politics in Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, Albany Columbus, and Athens. I've attending some of the commission meetings and they tend to agree on 95% of the issues...

Blame the charter and not the elected officials.. It's nobody's fault they're not sure whether it takes six or eight votes...

Riverman1
94244
Points
Riverman1 03/01/11 - 10:56 am
0
0
Countyman, I agree with you,

Countyman, I agree with you, but just how do you think the Commission is going to get 8 votes to change it? In addition, how will we get the legislative delegatioin to change it? Our best bet is to say the mayor has the power now and approve that with 6 votes and move on.

countyman
21682
Points
countyman 03/01/11 - 11:21 am
0
0
I think they need to wait for

I think they need to wait for the attorney general first.. Once you know the exact number of votes(six or eight) it'll be much easier to move forward...

I don't see how waiting a few extra days to hear from the attorney general is such a big deal... If the attorney general comes back and says it takes eight votes.. The city could be sued for a large sum of money in the future.. If some of the commissioners rush and move along because according to their legal opinion it takes six votes..

If the attorney general opinion decides six votes are needed.. Then this whole discussion is much to do about nothing.. Since the commission already had 6 votes in the beginning....

Riverman1
94244
Points
Riverman1 03/01/11 - 12:05 pm
0
0
It's going to come down to

It's going to come down to whether the 10-0 vote back in 1996 legally and permanently took away the power from the mayor or was it construed as a temporary delegation of authority to the administrator. In any case, it did give the administrator personnel decisions authority with approval of department heads hiring and firing by the commission. This view of the mayor as the CEO with inherent powers is a new twist by the legislative delegation's attorney which we should take as gospel until shown otherwise.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 03/01/11 - 12:30 pm
0
0
So the state of Ga is
Unpublished

So the state of Ga is laughing @ Augusta because of the leaders that we have in Atl? Those FEW people are the TRUE reason why Augusta is being laughed at?

Many national chains seem to differ with your opinion. Augusta's economy is OFF THE CHAIN!

Brad Owens
4914
Points
Brad Owens 03/01/11 - 02:12 pm
0
0
irishfarmer, The Commission

irishfarmer,

The Commission elections are in off years. Senator Walker did that to prevent a national or State elections from being able to cause a "J.B. Dykes" event from happening again.

So there should be some elections coming up on the odd years.

Brad

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 03/01/11 - 02:57 pm
0
0
Brad Owens: Sorry too say but

Brad Owens: Sorry too say but you need to check your facts about your last post. elections for all of the odd number districts will be in 2012. Districts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. We usually agree alot so I do not mean this in a offensive way you can see it on the Augusta city website. I hope all is well.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 03/01/11 - 06:03 pm
0
0
"Don't Blame me, I voted

"Don't Blame me, I voted Lori!"
bumper stickers coming soon.

corgimom
38713
Points
corgimom 03/01/11 - 07:12 pm
0
0
Augusta is a laughingstock

Augusta is a laughingstock because it's been 15 years since consolidation and nobody knows which inmates are running the asylum. How can you NOT laugh at that? Where else does it take people 15 years to decide who's in charge?

Riverman1
94244
Points
Riverman1 03/01/11 - 08:16 pm
0
0
I'm going to point out one

I'm going to point out one more obvious fact. The goal of most of us is to have the administrator in charge hiring and firing EVERYONE. If it requires commission approval to hire and fire department heads, there are 6 votes ready to back him up right now. Practically speaking we have what we want.

It would be good for the future to have a ruling say the mayor has those powers as an insulation when the commission swings back the other way which it surely will. Of course, does any of this really matter? A black mayor and majority commission are on the horizon. Not that is a bad thing necessarily. There are some conservative blacks...hopefully.

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