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Mason says Russell must go

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Long at odds with City Administrator Fred Russell over the ongoing reorganization of city government, Augusta Commission member Alvin Mason on Wednesday called for Russell's resignation.

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Commissioner Alvin Mason (shown) called for City Administrator Fred Russell's resignation, citing "the culmination of a number of things."   Staff
Staff
Commissioner Alvin Mason (shown) called for City Administrator Fred Russell's resignation, citing "the culmination of a number of things."
Susan McCord
Government Reporter
Twitter: @reportr1
E-mail | 706-823-3215

"I think it's about time for Mr. Russell to start looking for other employment opportunities that best fit his skill set, whatever that may be," Mason said.

The former mayor pro tem said it was "the culmination of a number of things," including Russell's unwillingness to provide cost-savings data and analysis on the reorganization's financial impact, that prompted him to make the call.

"In terms of savings, I'm getting the feeling we're spending more than we're saving," Mason said.

The announcement comes on the heels of the revelation that Russell last week authorized 44 raises for city employees involved in the reorganization, far more than just the four department heads he acknowledged on Monday were given 15 percent pay hikes.

A spreadsheet of the changes, acquired Wednesday by The Augusta Chronicle from Augusta's Human Resources Department, shows that in addition to the four department heads, 12 employees in Finance, 10 in Recreation, Parks and Facilities, 11 in Engineering, six in Environmental Services and one in Administration last week were authorized for pay increases, retroactive to May 2.

Authorization for all the changes arrived at Human Resources late last week, but it has taken time for the department to get them entered into the system, Human Resources Manager Robby Burns said.

Russell stood by the raises as all within the 15 percent pay increases he's authorized to make without commission approval.

"I have not talked to Mr. Mason about the status of my head or anything," Russell said. "These jobs are always precarious. I've done what was within the authority they gave me, at least six of them."

Those six to which Russell refers are the six commissioners who voted in favor of the reorganization, and in favor of the city's new personnel manual that gives the administrator authority to grant pay increases of up to 15 percent without commission approval.

Three of them -- Commissioners Jerry Brigham and Wayne Guilfoyle and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles -- gave depositions Wednesday to lawyers involved in a suit filed by The Baptist Ministers Conference of Augusta alleging that the reorganization plan and changes in Russell's authority were illegal under the city charter. The plaintiffs allege that reorganization required eight votes, or two-thirds majority, not six, a simple majority, because it constituted a change to the city charter.

Plaintiffs Barbara Gordon and the Rev. K.B. Martin attended the depositions in an Augusta Law Department boardroom as The Baptist Ministers' attorney, Serena Sparks, and Augusta General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie posed questions about the reorganization to the three commissioners. Brigham said his deposition lasted 2 1/2 hours.

"They were just reaching out, trying to find facts. All we could do was tell them the truth," Guilfoyle said after his hour-long deposition.

Guilfoyle said he was not calling for Russell's resignation, but that several on the commission were shocked to learn of the raises.

"As far as me going to fire Fred, no, I've got to hear his reasoning," Guilfoyle said.

Guilfoyle said he suspected that he, Bowles and Brigham were selected to be deposed because they were responsible for making a motion to add the word "exclusive" to a description in the personnel manual of Russell's authority to recommend candidates for jobs as Augusta department heads.

Mason would have at least one vote of support in an action to get rid of Russell, from Commissioner Bill Lockett, who learned of Mason's comments from a reporter.

"When this government was consolidated, the people that voted for consolidation indicated they did not want an un-elected administrator to have the authority that has been given by six commissioners to Mr. Russell," Lockett said.

That such authority might lead to an abuse of power is evident in the raises, and Russell's unwillingness to provide information about the city's financial picture and possible savings from the reorganization, Lockett said.

"I'm extremely disappointed, and I would expect more from an administrator," he said.

Russell, who joined city government in 2002 as a deputy administrator, added that he'd done the job "to the best of my ability" and that Augusta had "a fine list of accomplishments" under his watch.

He said the raises given to 44 of the city's 2,700 employees totaled about $350,000 annually, but that's less than the salaries and benefits paid to manager positions eliminated in the reorganized government.

Russell said he hadn't suggested increasing his own salary, which is $136,359, but subject it to this year's 1.88 percent furlough salary reduction for all personnel.

"If six of them thought I ought to make more money, then I wouldn't take it. My duties haven't changed. I still get to manage the circus," Russell said.

Comments (67) Add comment
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Carleton Duvall
6309
Points
Carleton Duvall 08/10/11 - 07:42 pm
0
0
This is not my comment

This is not my comment

Carleton Duvall
6309
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Carleton Duvall 08/10/11 - 08:36 pm
0
0
DITTO

DITTO

Willow Bailey
20618
Points
Willow Bailey 08/10/11 - 06:42 pm
0
0
Kudos, Alvin Mason!!!

Kudos, Alvin Mason!!!

TrulyWorried
20978
Points
TrulyWorried 08/10/11 - 06:47 pm
0
0
Looks like everyone is

Looks like everyone is speechless - me too!!

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 08/10/11 - 06:59 pm
0
0
Alvin Mason called for Fred

Alvin Mason called for Fred Russell's resignation in one breath. In the next, he recommended a few friends and family members who are looking for jobs.

Riverman1
113714
Points
Riverman1 08/10/11 - 07:14 pm
0
0
Kind of tough for me because

Kind of tough for me because I like Alvin Mason and don't particularly care for Russell. The thing is remember how Russell got the job. The crazy Commission had run off two great administrators and no one wanted the job. Russell was George Kolb's assistant and no other qualified administrators were applying. We got him by default and he has done a fair job as Augusta is reining in its government to meet the lack of revenue growth in the county. Plus, there has to be a genius in slue-foot Fred with the way he has survived and taken abuse continuously? I would just ask Mr. Mason to be careful since the Augusta stigma may still exist in the administrator community and we will be met with no applicants once again. Will we once again have to get the administrator's assistant. D'Antignac?

tckr1983
368
Points
tckr1983 08/10/11 - 07:26 pm
0
0
Original restructuring plan:

Original restructuring plan: save $2,000,000. As of yesterday Russell said it would actually only save $400,000... What happened? Forgot to put batteries in the calculator? How on God's green Earth does someone make an over-estimation like that as if it's fact it will happen, get the plan through and then keep his job when it's cut into a fifth of it's original estimation? Amazing.

Just My Opinion
7106
Points
Just My Opinion 08/10/11 - 07:27 pm
0
0
Man, what a cruddy job

Man, what a cruddy job Russell has! Who in their right mind would want to work for a bunch of idiots like we have? Think about it...EVERY single move you make is dissected and scrutinized by those clowns. There is absolutely no way that anyone can make them all happy because they each have their own agendas. If I was Fred Russell, I would work out some sort of backroom deal with these clowns, letting him resign on his own, with the stipulation that they give him glowing recommendations. Otherwise, I'd make them fire me and then take them to court over the dirt that he's dug up on each one of them!

Pandalover
0
Points
Pandalover 08/10/11 - 07:47 pm
0
0
Good job Alvin Mason! now can

Good job Alvin Mason! now can the hardworking employee's get some of their money back since its obvious their is plenty to go around and the wealth has not been shared. I am sure the citizens of Augusta didn't need to suffer because we were furloughed needlessly and some departments even got overtime to cover shifts. Really smart uh?
I'm thinking class action lawsuit.

luismartinez
0
Points
luismartinez 08/10/11 - 07:36 pm
0
0
Doesn't he know that old Fred

Doesn't he know that old Fred has a hired hitman on his staff?

alinfun
24
Points
alinfun 08/10/11 - 07:58 pm
0
0
Get rid of Alvin Mason

Get rid of Alvin Mason first!! Dead weight to the tax payers!!

augusta citizen
10727
Points
augusta citizen 08/10/11 - 08:01 pm
0
0
Class action lawsuit?

Class action lawsuit?

ImPOed
18
Points
ImPOed 08/10/11 - 08:23 pm
0
0
I agree he should resign or

I agree he should resign or be fired. The raises he gave should not have occured. Looks like the good old boy network is still in effect. We can never get ahead if things like this take place. Shameful, shameful. There were other things that made our eyebrows raise but this is the last straw.

tomcasey
-2
Points
tomcasey 08/10/11 - 08:27 pm
0
0
Maybe if we did away with the

Maybe if we did away with the seemingly endless supply of authorities, commissions and studies Augusta could move forward and save some real money. Presently, this way of government in Augusta is eating up capital and human resources.

So why is this form of governance being preserved? Why?

Brad Owens
5223
Points
Brad Owens 08/10/11 - 08:38 pm
0
0
Wow, 9mil in the hole and we

Wow, 9mil in the hole and we bounce a 350K raise to six senior managers?

KSL
174498
Points
KSL 08/10/11 - 08:46 pm
0
0
Brad, where did you get "six

Brad, where did you get "six senior managers?"

This is what I read: He said the raises given to 44 out of the city's 2,700 employees totaled about $350,000 annually, but that savings gained through the elimination of higher-paid managers outweighed the cost of the raises.

I really don't give a rat's behind end about what goes on in Augusta. Probably should since I live in the area. Not certain anyone in this economy is should be getting a raise when people who want to work are losing their jobs or taking paycuts. My husband had to take a 25% paycut. On the other side, he doesn't have to put in as many hours and we are fine because he can make up for the loss. But not all people who have taken a cut in income have that ability.

I'm pretty certain the pay increases the Obama has given his White House staff is an insult to all Americans.

my.voice
6043
Points
my.voice 08/10/11 - 09:55 pm
0
0
First you turn Fred loose to

First you turn Fred loose to reorganize, then you crucify him? I dont like anything thats going on but why is the commission just now seeing what Russell's made of?

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/10/11 - 10:10 pm
0
0
Russell deserved to be fired

Russell deserved to be fired long before this.. this just kind of serves as icing on the cake. But as others have pointed out, it's not like Augusta has a great reputation in the city administrator world. Here's a thought, since the mayor is technically the CEO of the city maybe his powers could be expanded to be pretty much like that of a city administrator.. the more mundane duties could be handled by the deputy administrator. I mean why not make the mayor's position count for something.. and unlike Russell, the mayor is elected city wide. This may be an opportunity to turn Augusta's weak mayor form of govt into a strong mayor form of government.

dichotomy
43913
Points
dichotomy 08/10/11 - 10:14 pm
0
0
Bad move Fred. I believe I

Bad move Fred. I believe I would have waited to see if we had ANY savings that could be documented before I started dividing up the spoils of war. As for Mason......I call for the resignation of ALL of the commissioners so what Mason wants don't carry much weight with me. Our commissioners are the only political group that makes Congress look good.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
Points
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 08/11/11 - 12:07 am
0
0
Told everybody it would take

Told everybody it would take 8 votes:o(
If that case goes to court they have no precedent that we could find. 8 votes would have been all they needed but they didn't keep pushing to do it by the book with the traditional 8 votes.

At least they listened about adding the Commission room to the courthouse by court ordered annexation or they really would be out in the heat.

Hope Fred sticks around, he's already broke in.

Abbynoll
282
Points
Abbynoll 08/10/11 - 11:52 pm
0
0
I'm sorry, does nobody seem

I'm sorry, does nobody seem to have an issue with the fact that people were laid off work and the rest of RC employees are taking furlough days? Where on earth does he come up with the idea that it's OK to give ANYONE a raise right now?????

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
Points
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 08/11/11 - 12:38 am
0
0
Emerydan wrote; "This may be

Emerydan wrote;
"This may be an opportunity to turn Augusta's weak mayor form of govt into a strong mayor form of government".

Mayors need all the power and money they can get, as long as they or any other “public servant” pays any money back if that money can be proven to have been used against the taxpayer that paid it. They bet two yrs pay they won't abuse U.S. and ALL our bad government problems will INSTANTLY work themselves out. Property taxes may drop like a rock. H aha hahah
The first time a public servant has to pay back some money the others will take note and become brilliant:o)

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/11/11 - 12:34 am
0
0
Lets look at Fred "what me

Lets look at Fred "what me worry?" Russell's performance shall we? When the commission tasked Russell to develop the SPLOST packages, he never fails to lard it up with everyone's little pet projects.. remember the SPLOST fiasco from 05? Then in the last SPLOST package we got the millions for a pond at Regency Mall. Then Russell calls for a special bond referendum in 06 to hopefully get The Billy Barn passed.. after voters overwhelmingly rejected the SPLOST from the previous fall that was larded up primarily by The Billy Barn. Of course that ploy backfired but it still cost the taxpayers tens of thousands for the unnecessary special election (Russell was the primary person who called for the special election). Then Russell has an a history of giving incompetent employees glowing job performance ratings. Remember Teresa Smith?.. when the commission had enough of her incomptence, it certainly didn't help their cause when it was revealed that Fred Russell gave her glowing performance ratings.. she got a much bigger separation package than she probably would have without the glowing performace ratings from Fred. remember the very generous golden parachute that the other incomptent, Chiquita Johnson got? Well remember, it was Fred who negotiated that package. I think when you tally up the score, Fred has cost this city far more than he has supposedly saved.. and looking at the situation this city is in financially, I don't see any savings. Not saying it all belongs on Fred's shoulders but he has made some very obvious bad calls over the years but seems to have consistently been given a pass when other incompetent city employees have been fired.. so maybe it is time for Fred to go. There is no reason whatsoever to be giving out ANY raises. If this is about saving the city money, and eliminating positions and furloughing ppl, that means doing more with less.. but "favored" people are getting raises while most everyone else is having to sacrafice.. that's not right.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 08/11/11 - 01:46 am
0
0
so, augusta, we run out of
Unpublished

so, augusta, we run out of money, demand more tax money to speculate with, fire workers or at least take away their retirement packages or cut their pay, and give the guys making the decisions bonuses. is this what they mean when they say they're gonna run it like a business?
we can let fred go. he'll be fine with his golden parachute. how are ceo's and city administrators like priests? they never die; they just get shuffled around.

SlapShot2
0
Points
SlapShot2 08/11/11 - 03:31 am
0
0
Mason is the bigger joke than

Mason is the bigger joke than Russell. Once again Mason is grandstanding because he wants to be the next mayor and he wants all the power. The power of the city administrator and the power of the mayor. Mason needs to look in the mirror because he has done so many foolish things since being elected to his position.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 08/11/11 - 03:36 am
0
0
Woah! Maybe I missed
Unpublished

Woah! Maybe I missed something...I thought the black ministers et al. were "holding Augusta back"...huh?!? Looks to be the other way around imo.
Once again, thanks to Mr. Lockett for starting the ball to roll on this.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 08/11/11 - 03:43 am
0
0
Mason ain't perfect...heck
Unpublished

Mason ain't perfect...heck who is...fact is, he is right. It is 2011 and the Augusta commission continues to get worse...as you can see, there are underlying issues that need to be addressed before this city will reach it's full potential... Augusta is nowhere near that mark.

When the majority is ruled my the minority, how can there ever be peace?

iLove
626
Points
iLove 08/11/11 - 04:02 am
0
0
Also, good luck to the lady
Unpublished

Also, good luck to the lady who lost her job of 20+ years to a "family member" of S. Kendricks...it will work in your favor honey. Stay positive.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 08/11/11 - 05:47 am
0
0
We must remember that the

We must remember that the basis of our Charles Walker developed consolidated government is 'Social Justice' not fiscal sanity or economic success. When decisions are made on non-economic logic the results are neither cost-saving or efficient based on hiring the best people for each job. Don't judge Fred Russell based on the performance of traditional City Administrators until you give him the authority most in his position enjoy. Ten Commissioners attempting to individually micro-manage the City of Augusta operations minimizes the objective criteria needed to do a Performance Review on Mr Russell.

owensjef2
0
Points
owensjef2 08/11/11 - 07:33 am
0
0
KSL , with an Obama

KSL , with an Obama reference; WTG LOL

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