Personnel manual OK'd; power still an issue

Vote is 6-3-1 on debated handbook

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A new handbook for Augusta employees, which spells out policies and procedures on everything from break times to "generational careers" such as firefighting -- which are exempt from the city's nepotism policy -- passed muster Tuesday with six commission votes.

Augusta Commission member Bill Lockett (center) and Commissioners Al Mason, Corey Johnson and J.R. Hatney voted against the city's new handbook, saying it might help alter government by giving the city administrator more powers.   Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
Augusta Commission member Bill Lockett (center) and Commissioners Al Mason, Corey Johnson and J.R. Hatney voted against the city's new handbook, saying it might help alter government by giving the city administrator more powers.

Four commissioners -- Al Mason, Bill Lockett, Corey Johnson and J.R. Hatney -- maintained their opposition to the book, which they say might be surreptitiously altering Augusta's form of government by giving the city administrator additional powers without the two-thirds majority of votes required in the charter. Several Augusta-area legislators feel the same way.

Mason, Lockett and Hatney drilled city attorneys who had drafted the manual, its revisions and legal opinions in support of it.

"People are getting paid very well to give us correct documents," said Mason, who complained that various revisions the law department prepared weren't numbered or dated.

"How do you justify making these (kinds) of changes and it does in no way impact the authority that governs this government?" Hatney asked.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver said the charter's ability to be interpreted in several ways, including an Office of Legislative Counsel opinion that Augusta's mayor is the city's powerful chief executive, was the real problem.

"If y'all don't keep me happy, I'm going to start firing people in a hurry," the mayor said jokingly.

City General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie said the charter had no bearing on approving the personnel manual or changing the city personnel board. The commission voted 6-4 to change the personnel board.

"We're trying to give the administrator the authority without changing the form of government," Lockett said.

The new manual gives the administrator the exclusive authority to recommend department heads for hiring or termination, which formerly the commission also could do. It also declares he has authority to hire, fire and reorganize all other workers, although MacKenzie has said the administrator already had that authority.

In a roll-call vote on the new manual requested by Lockett, Commissioners Matt Aitken, Joe Bowles, Jerry Brigham, Wayne Guilfoyle, Joe Jackson and Grady Smith uttered clear "yes" votes. Hatney said "unclear" and "present," then abstained. Lockett, Mason and Johnson voted "no."

The split vote was the second and final one needed.

Implementing the vast array of changes called for in the new manual will take some time. The Human Resources Department is developing a timeline, Director Rod Powell said.

One of the changes is placing all city employees on a 7.5-hour workday.

The handbook also is viewed as a tool for City Administrator Fred Russell to use as he works to reorganize city government.

He prefaced the report by saying, however, that as the city loses state and federal funding, his proposed cuts might not be enough.

"This is something that scares me, because as a group, you're going to have to decide some major issues," he said.

The report shows an annual cost savings that shrinks from almost $2 million to $1.2 million if the plan is in effect for only nine months in 2011. The savings from laying off 29 employees is $536,080 if it isn't implemented until April, the report shows.

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showboat 03/01/11 - 11:26 pm
What a joke with this group

What a joke with this group from our leader on down to the botton of the pit!!!

Brad Owens
Brad Owens 03/02/11 - 12:09 am
This is great news, I think.

This is great news, I think. I mean I guess I need to get a legal opinion about if I support these changes or not. Then I will need to get opinion approval before I can excercise my approval opinion otherwise someone might get offended..

Deke "Ironman" Copenhaver, the Mandate Mayor, seems to want to just stick his toe in the pool instead of jumping in and swiming laps.

Insider Information
Insider Information 03/02/11 - 01:18 am
I'm unclear. What is an

I'm unclear. What is an "unclear" vote?

Hatney voted "unclear," "present," and then abstained. Deke better watch out. He might have competition in the battle for who has less of a spine.

Asitisinaug 03/02/11 - 01:23 am
Thank God we were able to get

Thank God we were able to get 6 commissoners that agree on rules and policies for city government employees as well as holding them acountable for their actions. Mason, Locket, Johnson and Hatney are either trying to protect non-workers employeed by the county or are completly clueless as to the needs of our county.

As for our Mayor, you were voted in by a LARGE MAJORITY so step up, do your job, ask for forgiveness if necessary instead of permission. You don't need re-election so just do what is right and help make this community better.

augustarookie 03/02/11 - 08:30 am
Come on Deke, man up and do

Come on Deke, man up and do the job you were elected to do

Riverman1 03/02/11 - 09:40 am
The important aspect is that

The important aspect is that even with the 1996 ordinance the administrator was given the hiring and firing powers with Commission approval. Right now the Commission majority is with the good guys. It's time for Russell to clean house. There's nothing the other side can do about it no matter the interpretation of the charter used. They lose all the way around.

justus4 03/02/11 - 10:37 am
The minority commissioners

The minority commissioners correctly objects to Operation Power Grab, but much of this legal facade was predicted and should have been anticipated by any person of color elected to anything. Now that the commission has been "watered down" minority commissioners will find that others (minority)will be losing their jobs because the "fix" is already in, which has happened throughout US history to people of color. It's actually kinda funny that so-called "intelligent" individuals fail to comprehend historical data but find themselves exactly in the same predicament. Yep, and when a minority individual hold certain positions, the rules will be changed again. Ha! This is Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football and guess who is playing ol' CB? Great country, eh>?

iLove 03/02/11 - 10:35 am
....some leader. I voted for

....some leader.

I voted for Ms. Davis.

irishfarmer 03/02/11 - 10:42 am
Riverman1: Great post!

Riverman1: Great post! finally someone else gets it. Amazing! Again great post.

david jennings
david jennings 03/02/11 - 11:41 am
Power oh great power.Men are

Power oh great power.Men are fools.I agree,Deke won with 60% or better of the vote,Deke, these votes mean you have the majority of the people behind you,go ahead take a stance man.

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