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Augusta administrator keeps job

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Augusta Administrator Fred Russell held onto his job Tuesday, after a motion to fire him failed 6-4.

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Augusta Administrator Fred Russell smiles as the Augusta Commission votes to adjourn. A motion to fire Russell was defeated by a 6-4 vote Tuesday. He has been criticized by some commissioners for granting 15 percent raises to 44 city employees.  Sara Caldwell/Staff
Sara Caldwell/Staff
Augusta Administrator Fred Russell smiles as the Augusta Commission votes to adjourn. A motion to fire Russell was defeated by a 6-4 vote Tuesday. He has been criticized by some commissioners for granting 15 percent raises to 44 city employees.

A standing-room-only audience filled the commission chamber and hallway outside as the commission met for 90 minutes behind closed doors with attorneys, but not Russell.

Emerging into open session, Commission­er Alvin Mason made a motion to terminate Russell that was immediately seconded by Commissioner Bill Lockett.

“In light of the discussion we had back in legal, I want to make a motion that Mr. Russell be terminated, effective immediately,” Mason said.

Mason and Lockett have led a charge to fire Russell since becoming aware last week that the administrator granted 44 employees raises in the context of a reorganization plan that was supposed to save the city money.

While other commissioners had joined them in criticizing the raises, only two – Matt Aitken and J.R. Hatney – voted in favor of the motion.

“We voted to fire him,” Aitken said. “It’s been an ongoing thing ever since (former Public Services Director) Mike Greene and how that whole situation was handled. It’s just been up and down, a roller coaster in so many cases, and when you see the follow-through that we’ve seen from the administrator, and some of the things that were asked over the course of our meetings.”

Aitken, the one commissioner eligible for re-election next year, said he had “received demanding phone calls.”

Greene, who retired, was among the first employees targeted by the reorganization plan. His department was eliminated, and its functions spread among the city’s engineering, recreation and environmental services departments.

Russell has justified the raises by saying employees in the other departments who took on public works’ maintenance functions were now doing more work, but he did not present a report on the subject Tuesday as Mason had requested on the regular meeting agenda.

After they emerged from the closed-door meeting, Mason’s motion to fire Russell initially was met with opposition from Com­missioner Jerry Brigham, who said it needed unanimous consent to be added to the agenda.

When Mason argued that an agenda item relating to the city’s bus service had similarly morphed into an action, General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie offered to “look into the provision if we take a short recess,” but Bowles interjected that unanimous consent was there and the item moved forward.

“I thought we just needed to go ahead and get it over with,” Brigham said after the meeting.

Before the vote was taken, Mason gave a short speech.

“All the citizens are looking for is a few good men who have the intestinal fortitude to do what is right,” he said. “We have all run on a platform of change, setting the tone and moving this city forward.”

Russell’s contract awards him six months’ salary if he’s fired. The city’s new personnel manual adds at least three more months’ severance pay to top-ranking employees who are terminated.

Johnson, who frequently votes with Mason and Lockett, indicated there was more to his vote than a desire to retain Russell.

“I don’t think the people would be happy paying him $200,000 plus the potential litigation,” Johnson said. “The exit is all about the strat­­egy,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Brigham, who has requested the city’s auditor examine whether the raises were given in accordance to policy, said he voted against the motion because the commission had no backup plan.

“Just to go in there and fire some­body when you don’t have any idea about how to replace them? That’s ridiculous,” he said.

While most of the commissioners have called for an explanation for the raises, Russell provided none Tuesday because Brigham motioned to adjourn.

“I had had enough,” Brigham said.

Russell, who had to be summoned from his office after the vote was taken, said, “No matter what the vote was, the commission has the right to do what’s appropriate.”

Among many in attendance was Rollins neighborhood activist Juanita Burney.

“When he gave 15 percent raises, I don’t know what he was thinking,” Burney said. “Fifteen percent is unheard of, especially in a down economy.”

Others were shocked at how few voted in favor of the motion.

“I thanked Matt for his vote,” Harrisburg activist Lori Davis said.

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Riverman1
79686
Points
Riverman1 08/16/11 - 06:53 pm
1
0
When all this first broke, I

When all this first broke, I said 6-4 Russell stays. Lots of people in the media had it wrong including the Chronicle editors.

TheOneJustice
52
Points
TheOneJustice 08/16/11 - 07:02 pm
0
0
well it looks like the city
Unpublished

well it looks like the city workers who didnt get a raise will go on strike and see who patrols the city and puts out fires till they get a raise maybe who ever got their raise is gonna earn their raise now by actually doing something they didnt do like russell said

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/16/11 - 07:12 pm
1
0
actually River, things

actually River, things changed over the weekend.. there were votes to fire Russell but once it became obvious that certain commissioners could not get the replacement they wanted (ie Steve Szablewski) they quickly abandoned the idea to fire Russell.. lead by Jerry Brigham. The Johnson vote was very odd. but I think planned. Johnson takes the political brunt of this ( I think he was asked to do so), that way Deke didn't have to break a tie with Aitken voting yes. It was planned for Aitken to vote yes all along since they knew they had enough votes all along to force a tie breaker with Deke.. but as usual Deke gets to walk away without having to make the big decision and take the heat for it (Johnson ends up being the Fall guy,, and I expect there will be some reward for him for doing this). Aitken gets to vote yes and say he stood on the right side and stood against the other white commissioners. That position will most certainly help him in a re-election bid. This is how the cabal operates.. there is always more to the story behind the scenes.. Believe me this was all planned out in detail. But if anyone watched the commission meeting, Mason owned it.. He had Deke on the ropes. I hope everyone takes the time to go back later and watch the commission meeting from today.

porsche
11
Points
porsche 08/16/11 - 07:14 pm
1
0
Fred Russell should be fired

Fred Russell should be fired and the Commissioners supporting him should be voted out of office. This is a wake call for all citizens in Augusta. No one is managing the money, get a City Administrator with an accounting background to take care of our money.

LocalThives
0
Points
LocalThives 08/16/11 - 07:21 pm
0
0
YEA thats it
Unpublished

YEA thats it

LocalThives
0
Points
LocalThives 08/16/11 - 07:21 pm
0
0
YEA thats it
Unpublished

YEA thats it

Brad Owens
4110
Points
Brad Owens 08/16/11 - 07:26 pm
1
0
Interesting vote. Matt Aitken

Interesting vote. Matt Aitken voted to fire. Very interesting indeed.

Brad Owens
4110
Points
Brad Owens 08/16/11 - 07:31 pm
1
0
As Granny would say on the

As Granny would say on the Beverly Hillbillys, "If'n your a fur it, I'm a-gi-it, and if your a-gin-it I'm a fer it. And that's a feuding and that's a how a feuding is.."

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 08/16/11 - 07:43 pm
0
0
deke didn't allow any
Unpublished

deke didn't allow any clapping for mason. would he be more lenient if it were for him. people couldn't bring signs in or even have them in front of the building. firefighters were there in large numbers but couldn't speak about it.

Brad Owens
4110
Points
Brad Owens 08/16/11 - 07:48 pm
1
0
Deke hates bad press for the

Deke hates bad press for the city..kinda is a bummer I guess.

Mason had Deke on the ropes, and he was saved by Brigham telling him to "Just let's vote.." otherwise Deke was about to be made a fool of by Sgt. 1st Class (Retired) Mason..the NCO came out in him today. HOOAHHH!!

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 08/16/11 - 08:05 pm
1
0
Any fool can fire a man. It

Any fool can fire a man. It takes brains and talent to mold that same man into a good employee. Lets see how much brains and talent we have on the commission.

harley_52
22211
Points
harley_52 08/16/11 - 08:05 pm
1
0
So what did they decide to do

So what did they decide to do about the raises?

harley_52
22211
Points
harley_52 08/16/11 - 08:07 pm
1
0
Riverman, while you're on a

Riverman, while you're on a roll, can you help me pick some lottery numbers?

owensjef2
0
Points
owensjef2 08/16/11 - 08:27 pm
0
1
Whoops

Whoops

showboat
306
Points
showboat 08/16/11 - 08:57 pm
0
0
Johnson just lost all of
Unpublished

Johnson just lost all of his support from the black community.

Riverman1
79686
Points
Riverman1 08/16/11 - 09:04 pm
1
0
Harley said, "Riverman, while

Harley said, "Riverman, while you're on a roll, can you help me pick some lottery numbers?"

Ha, nothing psychic there. I'd make lots of money if I had someone to bet me on every controversial, important Commission vote that it wouldn't be 6-4.

Riverman1
79686
Points
Riverman1 08/16/11 - 09:04 pm
1
0
EmeryDan, interesting.

EmeryDan, interesting.

studmuffin1533
261
Points
studmuffin1533 08/16/11 - 09:08 pm
1
0
Easier to replace

Easier to replace commissioners than Fred.
As the now forgotten psychology professor at Augusta College said, circa 1970, what Augusta needs to move forward is a dozen good funerals. Things really haven't changed in the last 40 years, have they?
btw- the prof lost his job.

Pandalover
0
Points
Pandalover 08/16/11 - 09:17 pm
0
0
Disgusta! It will never

Disgusta! It will never change. I will speak with my vote. I can't wait to move out of this town.

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 08/16/11 - 09:23 pm
0
0
Absentee Ballot? BuBye!
Unpublished

Absentee Ballot? BuBye!

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/16/11 - 09:23 pm
1
0
Hey Augusta.. how you liking

Hey Augusta.. how you liking these commissioners? You voted em in. Btw, I wish more people could attend or would watch the commission meetings online or on TV to see how Deke treat's the citizens who show up. Deke is a disgrace. he is dismissive and hostile to the citizens who show up to these meetings. All you need to do is watch the video of the meeting which should be online in the next cpl days on the city's website.

Serious
1
Points
Serious 08/16/11 - 09:33 pm
1
0
Disgusta at its best!

Disgusta at its best!

Riverman1
79686
Points
Riverman1 08/16/11 - 09:35 pm
1
0
I had heard on the radio last

I had heard on the radio last week that Russell was going to be fired and Steve Szablewski may come in and slash and burn government jobs. Well, as I said on here, the black commissioners would have been crazy to have wanted such a deal since they have supporters among county workers. Johnson may have been thinking the same thing.

Then there's the bigger point of who would want this job? Steve Szablewski would have walked into an environment he was unfamilar with and be expected to be the hatchet man. That would be pretty tough to do. The black commissioners would have fought him tooth and nail.

Augusta is not going to find a decent administrator with its situation if Russell is fired. Remember he was only hired because they couldn't find anyone after running off Kolb and Oliver.

Bringing in a slash and burn temporary administrator would have been a manuever soley supported by the white commissioners and would have been fought in ways that would have gotten ugly.

What's so strange about all this is that the black administrators almost precipitated what they really don't want. They are much better off with Russell, the Democrat. I believe Johnson realizes that, too.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 08/16/11 - 09:37 pm
1
0
My guess is raises will

My guess is raises will continue to sail thru like good ole boy Fred. Voters get what they vote for. Let's see if any of them have a memory on election day.

Riverman1
79686
Points
Riverman1 08/16/11 - 09:52 pm
0
0
Watching Mayor

Watching Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman trying to control Alvin Mason is like watching a little left footed NFL kicker from Poland trying to tackle a linebacker who has blocked a kick, picked up the ball and heading the other way full speed.

willie7
920
Points
willie7 08/16/11 - 10:05 pm
0
0
Thank Corey Johnson for
Unpublished

Thank Corey Johnson for voting to keep Fred. He has done a good job through the years.Fred, go public and explain why you gave the persons raises. I know the employees in Abe Latson's department, engineering,
are doing double duty. And have done a great job

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/16/11 - 10:05 pm
1
0
Riverman.. steve had no

Riverman.. steve had no interest in coming in and taking over the reins of ARC.. that was not going to happen.. only wishful thinking by some commissioners.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/16/11 - 10:09 pm
1
0
szablewski coming in would

szablewski coming in would have been a temp gig.. no way he would have stayed on for the long haul. Steve was not interested in that.. plus why would he want to step into the mess of Augusta politics? The biogger question here is why does the city have no game plan? Why do they pay 2 deputy admins who cannot assume authority in this situation? That seems to be a big problem that no one is addressing. What if Fred just quit? Are they saying they have no back-up plan for that? why exactly do we have 2 deputy admins if they cannot step up in a case like this?

Riverman1
79686
Points
Riverman1 08/16/11 - 10:15 pm
1
0
EmeryDan, right Szablewski

EmeryDan, right Szablewski was only going to do the firing and then leave is what was being said last week. I never thought he would walk into such a situation. Honestly, I don't think he would know enough about the county, plus, he would have been met with plentiful opposition from Mason and Co. and he knew it.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/16/11 - 10:55 pm
1
0
river.. steve was not

river.. steve was not interested in the position period.. once they found that out they changed their tune. and btw the Johnson and Aitken votes were completely orchestrated. Johnson is term limited. Aitken can now portray himself as a champion for the regular folk when he runs for reelection. Just look at who donated the most money to Johnson's reelection campaign.. it has the cabal's fingerprints all over it. I am sure Johnson will be given some reward by the cabal to keep Deke from having to take the political heat from breaking a tie.

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