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Augusta City Administrator Fred Russell finds few friends on commission after awarding pay raises

Votes to fire embattled administrator unsure

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Augusta Commissioner Alvin Mason is already talking about Administrator Fred Russell in the past tense.

Administrator Fred Russell says the pay raises are justified.   File/Staff
File/Staff
Administrator Fred Russell says the pay raises are justified.

"Whoever comes in is either interim or possibly long term," said Mason, furious with Russell's decision to award 44 employees pay raises, all under the auspices of an ongoing government reorganization that was supposed to save the city money.

Mason, who with Commissioner Bill Lockett called for Russell's job after learning Wednesday of the pay increases, said Friday that no explanation Russell provides during Tuesday's commission meeting will change his mind.

"There's no explanation that warrants that," Mason said. "I don't think it was the intention of the commission to go out and spend $350,000 of taxpayers' money. (Russell) has the authority to make that decision, but I think his judgment, the commission trust factor, come into question."

Whether Mason and Lockett have the support of four other commissioners -- or three and a tiebreaking mayor -- remains to be seen, but several commissioners said last week that they were highly displeased with the raises.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, who initially said he would wait to hear Russell's explanation, was skeptical Friday.

"Maybe Fred's going to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but it's not looking like it," Bowles said.

He also is contemplating who could replace Russell.

"My goal is to find somebody with no ties to Augusta and doesn't mind shaking our government to its core, then leaving," Bowles said.

Commissioner Grady Smith said he had been shocked by the raises, which started his phone ringing and changed the focus of a civic club lunch to him.

"When we turn around and give raises to a few, I think that sends a bad message to the rest of the troops," Smith said.

While he, Bowles and four other commissioners earlier this year authorized Russell to implement a reorganization plan and give raises of up to 15 percent, Smith said the timing of the raises was all wrong.

"Now is not the time to do something like this, when you're furloughing people and we're trying to get out of the red and back into the black on the ledger sheet."

'Morale is down'

Despite a 40-minute discussion during Monday's administrative services committee meeting attended by Mason, Smith, Lockett and Commissioner Jerry Brigham, Russell never volunteered details about who had received raises, naming only four department heads to whom he granted 15 percent increases.

"Something like that, on this magnitude, I think, ought to be discussed," Smith said.

Smith stopped short of calling for Russell's termination: "If we turned around and fired all of us that made a mistake, none of us would have a job," he said.

"The knee-jerk reaction would be fire Fred, but the repercussion of our action is, who do we have to fill his shoes?" said Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle.

Neither Guilfoyle, Bowles nor Mason thinks either of the city's deputy administrators -- Tameka Allen and Bill Shanahan -- are up to the task.

"It's been a troublesome couple of days for us," Guilfoyle said. "He spent $350,000 of the city's money and pissed 2,600 people off. Morale is down."

The raises came at time when Russell has recommended for a second year furloughs and no cost-of-living pay adjustments for city workers, citing this year's $9 million general fund budget deficit.

Departments headed by elected officials -- the sheriff and tax commissioner -- have come under fire for giving promotions and raises, although their personnel policies aren't governed by Russell or the commission.

Shows of support

Commissioner Joe Jackson questioned whether all 44 who received raises deserved them.

"I think a more methodical approach would have been appropriate," said Jackson, also reluctant Friday to put Russell immediately out.

"As of right now, with everything going on, he needs to stay put," Jackson said. "As of right now, today, I don't have a recommendation to take his place."

Commissioners Matt Aitken and Brigham said Friday they doubted Russell would be shown the door Tuesday.

"I don't think we're going to do anything without a plan, and I know we don't have a plan at this point," Brigham said. "I don't look for us to do anything Tuesday."

Aitken said, "We're just trying to sort out what we need to do. It's just discussion right now."

While Mason said he wants Russell's employment status to be discussed openly, Mayor Deke Copenhaver called a legal meeting to discuss personnel behind closed doors at 4 p.m. Tuesday, an hour before the commission meeting.

"I'm not a fan of closed-door meetings; that's something that the mayor will have to explain," Mason said.

Copenhaver and commissioners Lockett, J.R. Hatney and Corey Johnson did not return calls requesting comment.

While administrators over the consolidated Augusta-Richmond County government have taken heat from commissioners over the years, Russell's two predecessors left on their own for other positions.

Randy Oliver, the administrator from 1997 to 2000, became the city manager in Greenville, S.C., despite a commission effort to retain him. George Kolb, who served from 2001 to 2004, left to manage Wichita, Kan.

In his own defense

The optimism Russell expressed Thursday that he still had support among the commission had waned by Friday.

"The bottom line is, I've done the best I could," he said, defending his record of successful construction projects, low taxes and money in the bank.

The raises are justified as employees in reorganized departments take on extra duties, he said.

"Tell me when the timing would be good, given this economy?" Russell said. "You're getting more work and more responsibility out of those employees."

An example Russell frequently cites is that of former Public Services Director Mike Greene, whose department was eliminated in the reorganization and its functions, mostly maintenance, were divided among expanded recreation, engineering and solid waste departments.

Greene's salary and benefits package came to more than $130,000, while the cost of paying three other employees a little more to take on Greene's responsibilities is less, Russell said.

Still, the precise amount of savings from the reorganization is murky, Russell said, after estimating six months ago it would trim $2 million from the deficit.

"Unfortunately, because of our lack of ability to move forward, we're six months behind on that," he said, adding that a figure he recently gave as an estimate of 2011's actual savings -- $400,000 -- included the pay increases.

The heads of each of the departments where raises were given -- finance, utilities, administration, engineering, environmental services and recreation -- spent several hours pitching the raises to Russell, he said.

If Russell is fired without a cause such as gross negligence, he receives six months' salary, according to the employment agreement he signed with the city.

However, he could receive more as the new personnel manual created a division called Senior Executive Staff Group IV that includes Russell. Its members, if terminated within their first year as SES Group IV, are eligible for three months' severance.

If he resigns, he receives nothing.

Comments (24) Add comment
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Richmnd Cty Votr
1
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Richmnd Cty Votr 08/13/11 - 11:39 pm
0
0
I have an IDEA, Give back the

I have an IDEA, Give back the raises. CASE CLOSED.

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/11 - 08:00 am
0
0
Exactly, RCV. The most

Exactly, RCV. The most urgent thing the Commission must do on Tuesday is rescind the raises. Even if there have already been checks issued with retroactive pay, take the money back.

There will be an avalanche of demands from employees in all departments to give raises to everyone.

cityman
-6
Points
cityman 08/14/11 - 08:49 am
0
0
Bring in outside employees
Unpublished

Bring in outside employees who have not been bought out by the CABAL!

harley_52
23207
Points
harley_52 08/14/11 - 08:53 am
0
0
Who will pay all the lawyers

Who will pay all the lawyers to defend against all the lawsuits?

bubbasauce
20603
Points
bubbasauce 08/14/11 - 10:48 am
0
0
This is typical of the City

This is typical of the City of Augusta, no accountability for actions that no official would ever approve if they owned a business and had to cut back. Our city acts just like all the politicians in Washington, D.C., it's not our money so I will do whatever I please.It is time to get rid of this man! When will these politicians and officials finally start listening to the will of the people? When they are gone!

FreedomFighter
0
Points
FreedomFighter 08/14/11 - 10:59 am
0
0
Who's to say that any of you

Who's to say that any of you four would not have done the same thing were you in Fred's shoes?
He's not a guy to reward slackers. A tough decision was before him and given how hard he works to do the right thing, I'm confident that he did what was best for Augusta.
As an employer, I can tell you that while you can't pay an employee enough to transform them into the employee you need them to be, you also have to recognize that when you have people doing a good job with what they have, you can't afford to underpay them either, or else they will find somebody who will pay them what they are worth.
If you think you can find someone who can do Fred's job better for what he is being paid, please do so. If not, then at least give the man a chance to explain himself before you start crucifying him.

Little Lamb
45867
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Little Lamb 08/14/11 - 12:19 pm
0
0
So Fred's not a guy to reward

So Fred's not a guy to reward slackers, huh? Well, he rewarded Teresa Smith.

Little Lamb
45867
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Little Lamb 08/14/11 - 12:22 pm
0
0
And as far as "underpaid"

And as far as "underpaid" employees leaving for someone who pays them what they are worth; city of Augusta employees are not leaving! They're hanging on to those city jobs as tightly as they can. You cannot justify the number or the magnitude of those raises.

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/11 - 12:26 pm
0
0
If the Commission does not

If the Commission does not rescind, retract, take back (or whatever the correct term is) those raises this Tuesday, we the taxpayers of Augusta are going to be in a world of hurt. There will be cries from all quarters of city government for "fairness" to give 15% raises to everyone.

And what's to stop Russell from giving another 15% raise to those 44 employees next year? And the year after that? It's not his money he's giving away. It's mine.

as good as it gets
0
Points
as good as it gets 08/14/11 - 12:39 pm
0
0
Fred Russell must go! He is

Fred Russell must go! He is the dirtiest politician in Augusta. If you ever saw the movie “The Departed” about the corruption in the City of Boston’s police department. Fred Russell is the dirtiest of them all and if the Mayor and Commissioners do not terminate him, they should all be given the new title of “The Dirty Dozen” Fred Russell stabbed George Kolb in the back to get his job in the first place. He is an elitist who is out only for himself or those he can control after giving them big raises. He does not care that many county employees are eligible and on food stamps they still have to endure no pay furlough days. He has the audacity to hire a Deputy City Administrator at 117K a year salary which is more than it would take to hire four (4) new employees in the public safety jobs of this county. Fred Russell’s’ favorite phrase, to employees or anyone that question his unscrupulous decisions, is “Sit down and shut up.” If you don’t his next words were “you are fired” Fred Russell should not only be fired but he should be investigated by the District Attorney and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations for corruption. Shortly after he became city administrator his wife was given a promotion and pay raise as major of the Marshall’s department funny there was no one in that position before. The city nickname of “Disgusta”
is a result of the disgusting policy and decision making done by Mayor Copenhaver and Commissioners. It is disgusting to see black and white commissioners vote against each other instead of what is best for the citizens of Augusta. I hope for once the Commissioners will do what is right for the citizens of this county and fire Fred Russell and deny his unemployment and compensation package for his wrong doings. After all he should be fine with his wife’s 67,190.00 a year county salary. Look at the chart 5 people make more a year than the combined salaries of four employees who risk their lives every day. When has Fred Russell risked anything for this county or its citizens? How does an administrative assistant make more a year than people who risk their lives every day? Furthermore fred russell needs a secretary and an Administrative assistant that combined make $62,272.84 Fred is not a part of the good ole boy network he is the leader of the birty ole boy network. I have no doubt those defending Fred russell recieved big paycjecks from him. And Teresea smith was prime example of him trying to abuse his power and stick his finger in the eye of the public and the commissioners get rid of the dirty rat.

2010 RUSSELL, FREDERICK L. ADMINISTRATOR $136,359.35
2011 SHANAHAN JR., WILLIAM,DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR $117,499.98
2010 ALLEN, TAMEKA N DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR $114,164.73
2011 HUDSON, SARAH J. ADMINISTRATOR ADMIN ASST I $32,597.35
2010 ALSTON, ALEXANDRA ADMINISTRATOR Exe. SEC. $29,674.84
2011 MACKENZIE, ANDREW G ARC LAW DEPARTMENT $133,992.98
2011 THOMAS, ROSITA,ARC LAW DEPT ADMIN. ASST $33,273.99
2011 KENDRICK, STEVEN BRIAN TAX COMMISSIONER $114,524.24
2011 RUSSELL, TERESA MARSHAL Dept. MAJOR $67,190.27

2011 ANIMAL CONTROL FIELD SERVICE OFFICER $18,730.08
2011 FIRE SUPPRESSION FIREFIGHTER I 24HR $28,552.06
2011 SHERIFF-ROAD PATROL DEPUTY 8HR $31,380.96
2011 CIVIL COURT-MARSHAL DEPUTY 8HR $29,381.04

Total combined salary $108,044.14

as good as it gets
0
Points
as good as it gets 08/14/11 - 12:41 pm
0
0
Type-o DIRTY OLE BOY

Type-o DIRTY OLE BOY

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 08/14/11 - 01:03 pm
0
0
Russell looks like the
Unpublished

Russell looks like the alderman in The Untouchables that tries to bribe Eliot Ness.

Riverman1
83627
Points
Riverman1 08/14/11 - 01:16 pm
0
0
"Russell looks like the

"Russell looks like the alderman in The Untouchables that tries to bribe Eliot Ness."

An Alderman is called a Commissioner in Richmond County.

harley_52
23207
Points
harley_52 08/14/11 - 01:18 pm
0
0
***Who's to say that any of

***Who's to say that any of you four would not have done the same thing were you in Fred's shoes?***

If I'm one of the "four" you're talking about, I haven't commented one way or the other on what Fred did. Frankly, I don't have enough information to make that call. I was addressing the position the city will find itself in after whatever decision they make is made.

Some before me believed the money should be just "taken back" from those who received it. Others seem certain Fred will be (or at least should be) fired.

From what little I have read, it seems to me he did nothing illegal because he was given the latitude of fifteen percent pay increases. I could be wrong, but I'm not willing to sign up for firing Fred, or seizing money legally paid to city employees, just because people wish they hadn't allowed Fred the authority they gave him.

It sounds to me like a situation lawyers would love to take to court and either win a big bundle, or settle for a slightly smaller bundle. The losers are the taxpayers one way or the other, aren't they?

TheOneJustice
52
Points
TheOneJustice 08/14/11 - 02:18 pm
0
0
I say class action lawsuit
Unpublished

I say class action lawsuit for the city workers while they are getting furloughed people get a income increase. especially a $18,000 a raise that is more than a deputy's salary

TheOneJustice
52
Points
TheOneJustice 08/14/11 - 02:22 pm
0
0
What he did was wrong
Unpublished

What he did was wrong technically, if you have enough to give peeople raises up to $18,000 and furlough people who make below $31,000 and cut their salary especially in a down economy is called good ol boy system

TheOneJustice
52
Points
TheOneJustice 08/14/11 - 02:22 pm
0
0
What he did was wrong
Unpublished

What he did was wrong technically, if you have enough to give peeople raises up to $18,000 and furlough people who make below $31,000 and cut their salary especially in a down economy is called good ol boy system

harley_52
23207
Points
harley_52 08/14/11 - 02:37 pm
0
0
I'm not really sure what you

I'm not really sure what you mean by "wrong technically." Do you mean "legally," or "ethically," or "administratively," or "popularly," or what?

The important thing, at this point, is "legally." If he had the legal authority to award fifteen percent raises then it would be a mistake to either fire him, or take the raises away from the employees.

If it was clearly wrong ethically, there may be a case for firing him, depending on his contract. If it was arguably wrong ethically, or administratively, or some other way it's probably a mistake to fire him and/or "take the money back." Maybe the raises could be reversed, but what's been paid is paid.

Sounds to me like Fred was given more authority than people wish he had been and/or his actions weren't reviewed as they should have been. In either case, it's not Fred who should be under the most scrutiny here, it's his overseer(s).

It's not illegal to be a "good ol' boy."

TheOneJustice
52
Points
TheOneJustice 08/14/11 - 03:48 pm
0
0
Technically i am right Ga
Unpublished

Technically i am right Ga prohibits retroactive raises thanks.

harley_52
23207
Points
harley_52 08/14/11 - 03:55 pm
0
0
Well, TheOneJustice, if

Well, TheOneJustice, if Georgia law prohibits retroactive raises, and if the City has been following that law, there may be a case for firing him. If either of those two conditions are absent, and if he's fired, we've probably got a legal issue we'll lose on.

As I said earlier, I don't have all the facts here, just a concern for taxpayer losses through leadership failures.

FreedomFighter
0
Points
FreedomFighter 08/14/11 - 03:57 pm
0
0
Harley_52 you make very good

Harley_52 you make very good sense. Well stated.

harley_52
23207
Points
harley_52 08/14/11 - 04:10 pm
0
0
Thanks, FreedomFighter.

Thanks, FreedomFighter. Others disagree. :)

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 08/14/11 - 06:40 pm
0
0
I know what they are called
Unpublished

I know what they are called here RM I was referring to the name Alderman because that's what he was called in the movie!!

Riverman1
83627
Points
Riverman1 08/14/11 - 06:57 pm
0
0
Iwannakno, not disrespecting

Iwannakno, not disrespecting your knowledge. My point was a little humor pointing out the bad guy, Alderman, was the equivalent of our Commissioners while you were saying he looked like Russell.

Hey, I don't care if he's fired. I remind people about his side business often. But I also remember the history of the others who were great administrators and were literally run-off. Russell is all that was left. I'm surprised he lasted this long. The coming FIGHT over a new one is going to be hilarious.

Riverman1
83627
Points
Riverman1 08/14/11 - 07:13 pm
0
0
Remember Russell is not the

Remember Russell is not the usual, educated and trained administrator. He's the ex-street cop who learned his craft under George Kolb. It could be he is totally out of his league, but watch him at Commission meetings and how he walks around in his slewfooted way speaking individually to the Commissioners, trying to keep them happy. He is berated at the meetings often in ungentlemanly ways and keeps smiling.

What capable and currently successful administrator currently employed somewhere in his right mind would walk into that mosh pit?

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 08/14/11 - 07:27 pm
0
0
lol I missed the humor...my
Unpublished

lol I missed the humor...my bad!

cityman
-6
Points
cityman 08/14/11 - 09:41 pm
0
0
We can't forget how Fred
Unpublished

We can't forget how Fred Russell and the Mayor tried to pull a fast one on Goshen plantation residents: http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2009/08/12/met_544175.shtml

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/11 - 09:50 pm
0
0
Riverman wrote: . . . . But I

Riverman wrote:

. . . . But I also remember the history of the others who were great administrators and were literally run-off. Russell is all that was left. I'm surprised he lasted this long. The coming FIGHT over a new one is going to be hilarious.

The best strategy is not to hire a new one! Just leave the City Administrator position vacant while a liesurely "search" is conducted by a two-man committee who will study the thing to death. Our deputy administrators will take care of the day-to-day details while the administrator's desk is empty. No one will have the power to grant 15% raises to his favored employees, year after year after year.

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/11 - 10:10 pm
0
0
The most important thing to

The most important thing to do this coming Tuesday is for the commission to rescind, (i.e., undo) the raises – yes, retroactively. They can take their time to stew or barbeque Russell.

CB Buyt
0
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CB Buyt 08/14/11 - 11:39 pm
0
0
My GOD!! I have had enough of
Unpublished

My GOD!! I have had enough of the black/white divide. Alvin Mason seems to speak much, but never say a thing. Why can't we fire commissioners??? Corey Johnson is a joke. You CANNOT rescind raises...it's against the law. But now around here, who knows?

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