Questions fired at Augusta officials over Russell's raises

Committee ends with call to rescind Russell's raises

Monday, Aug 29, 2011 10:45 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Aug 30, 2011 1:44 AM
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Augusta Commission member Alvin Mason led a charge Monday to extract information from city department heads and deputy administrators about City Administrator Fred Russell’s recent awarding of 44 retroactive pay raises and other issues related to an ongoing restructuring of government.

Commissioners Alvin Mason (left) and Wayne Guilfoyle quiz Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Howard Willis. Department heads were called for questioning.  RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF
RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF
Commissioners Alvin Mason (left) and Wayne Guilfoyle quiz Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Howard Willis. Department heads were called for questioning.
Susan McCord
Government Reporter
Twitter: @reportr1
E-mail | 706-823-3215

“Again, it’s unfortunate that Mr. Russell is not here to address the situation himself,” said Mason, who with Commissioner Bill Lockett called for Russell’s firing Aug. 16. That vote failed 6-4.

Russell subsequently went on vacation for a week, but he had a report describing cost savings from the reorganization plan distributed to commissioners Aug. 22.

Russell hadn’t returned Monday, and Mason used the opportunity to question the directors himself, starting by taking roll and reminding all nonelected department heads who were present that they were expected “to be honest and forthcoming” during what was an “on-the-record” Administrative Services Committee meeting.

Reading from the city’s new personnel manual, adopted around the same time Deputy Administrator Bill Shanahan was hired, Mason quizzed Shanahan about whether the reorganization and raises followed the procedures spelled out in the manual.

“Is it your opinion that those 44 raises were done in accordance with the personnel policies and procedures manual?” Mason asked. “Did you ever physically see any of the paperwork?”

Shanahan said he’d had little involvement in it.

Questioned next, Deputy Administrator Tameka Allen said she, Russell, two employees from Human Resources and another from Information Technology had made up the committee that developed the reorganization plan starting last year.

“Did the 44 personnel meet the criteria?” Mason asked.

“As far as I know,” Allen said. “Yes.”

“So you physically saw the PDQs (Position Description Questionnaire)?” Mason asked. “Was there a PDQ done on you as a deputy administrator?”

Allen, who serves as IT director and deputy administrator, was among the 44 given raises. Most other city employees have received none in two years.

The manual hadn’t been approved when the committee appears to have developed the reorganization plan’s first phase, but it requires a department director provide a completed Position Description Questionnaire to human resources before creating new positions.

Commissioner Bill Lockett, who presides over the four-member Administrative Services Committee, later called Allen back to the podium, saying she had “something to clarify” about the raises.

“As far as the salary increases, things of that nature,” Allen said, “We were not involved.”

Quizzed on her eligibility to serve as finance director, Donna Williams told Mason that she had the required degrees and had four times served as interim finance director.

Among department heads called to speak, Geri Sams of Procurement, Evan Joseph of the Richmond County Correctional Institute and Hawthorne Welcher of Housing and Community Development said they had lost people and received no raises in the reorganization, and that morale was down.

Recreation, Parks and Fa­cilities Director Tom Beck said, “I think it’s pretty good in our department.” Several in the department, including Beck, were among the 44 who received raises.

“How much have you actually saved?” Mason asked Engineering Director Abie Ladson, who received a raise along with several other engineering employees.

“We haven’t actually saved any,” Ladson said. “The savings from us will come from us doing a good bit of our work in-house” over the next couple of years.

“There should have been some savings but then, no, there were some raises,” quipped Lockett, asking Ladson whether the reorganization of his department followed the manual.

“Everything but the PDQ,” Ladson said.

After much questioning, Mason made a motion to rescind the 44 raises. It passed in committee by a 3-0 vote, with Commissioner Jerry Brigham out of the room. The action needs full commission approval to go into effect.

FOLLOW staff writer Susan McCord’s Augusta Commission coverage on Twitter at @reportr1.

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billyjones1949
1
Points
billyjones1949 08/29/11 - 10:11 pm
0
0
Why did they not wait for Mr.

Why did they not wait for Mr. Russell to get back from vacation before having this meeting.

porsche
19
Points
porsche 08/29/11 - 10:26 pm
0
0
Hey billyjones, don't you

Hey billyjones, don't you know Ms. Deputy Administrator (Allen) was the muscle behind the raises. Russell doesn't know how to do anything but politic.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 08/29/11 - 11:20 pm
0
0
The witch hunt is on. The

The witch hunt is on. The protocol maintained by the non-professionals who seek revenge against a professional attempting to do his job is shameful. You don't run a successful organization by letting personal feeling drive business decisions.

It's time for the Commission to get serious. At one point the excess employees carried over from consolidation was costing the tax payers an extra $10MM a year. From 1995 to 2011 that is a wasted $160MM. Now Mason is upset because the Administer wants to build a strong management team and reward them according. It'time for the Administer put the pencil to the termination papers of approximately 200 employees there being protected by different Commissioners. Part of the savings should go to the producing and needed employee while the other savings should go into the general treasure.

The Commissioners fight restriucting the government because they don't want to give up their patronage system which gives them power. A number of the Commissioners base the hiring on the concept of "Social Justice". You give someone a job because the system hasn't been fair and their friend or relative deserves the job whether the city has the need for the employee or not. Usually the offending Commissioner pays minimum or no city taxes himself & believes it is his responsibility to take from the rich tax payers and give to the poor.

Commissioners,, get yourselves out of day-to- day operations. You are their to advise & consent , not to micromanage something you have neither the skills nor the right to do. Eliminate a super majority of 6 votes to pass something even all 10 Commissioners are not present. Set a quorum and let the majority vote rule with the mayor breaking a tie.give the administrator the right to hire and fire City employees subject to a vote of the Commission. Read and use Roberts Rules of Order - you might find them interesting. Set minimum standards in education & experience for someone qualifying for City Commission

If you have no real plan for where you want to take this community you should make doable plans,reasonable projections of income and expenses and give bonuses to employees who reduce cost and increase revenue - you know, like a real business.

showboat
400
Points
showboat 08/29/11 - 11:10 pm
0
0
Ms. ALLEN WASN'T THE BULL
Unpublished

Ms. ALLEN WASN'T THE BULL BEHIND THE RAISES ,MR RUSSELL WAS THE BIG BAD MAN, COULDN'T TAKE HEAT AND LEFT TOWN. WHEN HE GET BACK LET HIM CLEAN HIS OFFICE OUT AND GO BACK ON A LONG VACATION.

Riverman1
103415
Points
Riverman1 08/30/11 - 05:50 am
0
0
I guess Shanahan and the

I guess Shanahan and the others were supposed to rub their eyeballs on the plan so they could "physically see" it. But the Commission can vote today to rescind the raises right. If they do fine. Will everyone be happy then?

"Among department heads called to speak, Geri Sams of Procurement, Evan Joseph of the Richmond County Correctional Institute and Hawthorne Welcher of Housing and Community Development said they had lost people and received no raises in the reorganization, and that morale was down."

So we can either give everyone a raise or cut everyone. I vote to cut everyone. Either way, y'all can blame this on Russell. While we're blaming him for things, let him have it about how hot this summer has been, too.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 08/30/11 - 06:25 am
0
0
Over paid already is what I

Over paid already is what I read into that diatribe.

augusta citizen
10453
Points
augusta citizen 08/30/11 - 06:27 am
0
0
showboat, Mr. Russell

showboat, Mr. Russell probably has his fingers crossed that they'll do just that, I can't imagine anyone wanting his job. ARC Commission/Government workings gets more like a reality show every week.

Fishboy
29
Points
Fishboy 08/30/11 - 06:32 am
0
0
Why does everyone have to get

Why does everyone have to get a raise? I don't believe in rewarding people for showing up and doing what they are supposed to do, with the exception being a small cost-of-living increase.

Little Lamb
51802
Points
Little Lamb 08/30/11 - 06:40 am
0
0
Rescinding the Russell raises

Rescinding the Russell raises will be a small step for man. There are other things to do before we take the giant leap for mankind.

It has been reported here that the newly-approved Personnel, Policies and Procedures manual also contains generous severance provisions for the city administrator and the city attorney (that's convenient, isn't it?). The next step for the commission is to remove those provisions. Then they can start discussions about firing Fred.

justthefacts
29059
Points
justthefacts 08/30/11 - 06:42 am
0
0
Is that commissioner really

Is that commissioner really wearing a yellow t-shirt?

Fishboy
29
Points
Fishboy 08/30/11 - 07:01 am
0
0
A giant leap backwards for

A giant leap backwards for the city...

Little Lamb
51802
Points
Little Lamb 08/30/11 - 07:06 am
0
0
From the article above: Geri

From the article above:

Geri Sams of Procurement . . . said [she] had lost people and received no raises in the reorganization, and that morale was down.

As head of the Procurement Department, Geri Sams has been singlehandedly responsible for wastage of hundreds of millions of dollars in choosing high bidders; in cronyism, favoritism and other acts of affirmative action; and in successful lawsuits against the city. If morale is down, it is because of her direct actions, not because of lack of salary increases.

billyjones1949
1
Points
billyjones1949 08/30/11 - 07:11 am
0
0
Justthefactrs, I would think

Justthefactrs, I would think a white shirt and a tie would be more in line and would show more respect for the office. Yellow or color shirts are ok in an informal setting but not in a formal setting.

justthefacts
29059
Points
justthefacts 08/30/11 - 07:14 am
0
0
I'm with you billyjones.

I'm with you billyjones.

dougk
3
Points
dougk 08/30/11 - 07:17 am
0
0
Mr. Oz...you may want to read
Unpublished

Mr. Oz...you may want to read up on the principles of "social justice." You wouldn't want to mislead other readers.

Little Lamb
51802
Points
Little Lamb 08/30/11 - 07:27 am
0
0
Actually, in asking those

Actually, in asking those questons of various department heads yesterday, the commissioners were actually conducting job interviews. They now have a feel for which department heads might be capable of being the next city administrator.

cityman
-6
Points
cityman 08/30/11 - 07:29 am
0
0
thewiz0oz, Sounds to me like
Unpublished

thewiz0oz, Sounds to me like Richmond counties loss can be your gain. Snap up Russell since you love him so much.

dichotomy
40839
Points
dichotomy 08/30/11 - 07:31 am
0
0
Aw leave Fred alone and let

Aw leave Fred alone and let him reorganize. At least had HAS A PLAN and has done SOMETHING. The people who are attacking him have never tried to save the RC taxpayer a dime. Particularly Mason and Lockett. They have NEVER PROPOSED ANY PLAN. They have done NOTHTHING. EVER. At least Fred did SOMETHING. Maybe it's not the best plan. Maybe it won't even work. But at least he did SOMETHING. Maybe you don't like what Fred did but like the old saying goes, our county and our budget are definitely at the "DO SOMETHING EVEN IF IT'S WRONG" stage. Mason, Lockett, and most of the rest of the patronage for power commissioners DO NOT and NEVER HAVE HAD A PLAN to reorganize, cut costs, and get rid of the duplicated patronage employees left over from before consolidation. And we all know why. Go on, ASK MASON AND LOCKETT FOR THEIR PLAN. LET'S SEE IT. SHOW US YOUR PLAN AND A WRITTEN REPORT ON THE SAVINGS. COME ON MASON. COME ON LOCKETT. SHOW US YOUR PLAN!!!!!!!!!! At least Fred did SOMETHING and until you show me something better, I say "drive on" Fred. Get'er done. The proof is in the pudding and at least Fred has something to put in the oven. Mason and Lockett have got NOTHING, NADA, ZIP. WHERE IS THEIR PLAN??????

I know more than you do
176
Points
I know more than you do 08/30/11 - 07:35 am
0
0
You wonder why people are

You wonder why people are moving to Columbia County - the lack of leadership, poor choices and the ongoing craziness in the Richmond County Govt is one reason. I can't understand how the issue of giving raises has now become such a fiasco - it seems like those that knew of it would have/should have known it was going to be controversial in a time of skyrocketing costs and would have either obtained the support, made it known of their intentions so discussion could occur,or realized it was bad timing before passing it.

seenitB4
109036
Points
seenitB4 08/30/11 - 07:44 am
0
0
Yep.....we know why people

Yep.....we know why people are moving.

Little Lamb
51802
Points
Little Lamb 08/30/11 - 07:45 am
0
0
That's exactly the point, I

That's exactly the point, I know more. The raises were done in secret. The process should have been out in the open. Governments should not raise taxes nor grant salary increases in recessionary times where houses are being foreclosed, unemployment is high, and energy costs are rising.

Recessionary times are when governments should decrease their scope and size. Russell is a "big government" man. He tries to expand government services and government costs at every opportunity.

I know more than you do
176
Points
I know more than you do 08/30/11 - 07:52 am
0
0
And now they are wasting time

And now they are wasting time and energy on trying to fix a problem that shouldn't have been created in the first place. You can't ever move on to more important items when you are practicing "reactionary" government.

showboat
400
Points
showboat 08/30/11 - 08:05 am
0
0
justthe facts that isn't a
Unpublished

justthe facts that isn't a yellow t-shirt. Learn the style.lol

Little Lamb
51802
Points
Little Lamb 08/30/11 - 08:11 am
0
0
thewizOoz wrote: The protocol

thewizOoz wrote:

The protocol maintained by the non-professionals who seek revenge against a professional attempting to do his job is shameful.

Yes, Russell attempted to do his job. But he did a bad job! That's why the Commission is attempting to correct the mess.

justthefacts
29059
Points
justthefacts 08/30/11 - 08:12 am
0
0
Sorry, looks yellow to me.

Sorry, looks yellow to me. Maybe my monitor needs adjusting.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 08/30/11 - 08:29 am
0
0
So.... A bunch of ministers

So.... A bunch of ministers sue the commissioners over the reorganization plan and the manual.

In turn, a couple of commissioners grill employees about the plan and the manual in public.

Hmmm.... Thanks, commissioners, for helping out the other side of this lawsuit. I'm sure we will be seeing the preachers pull a tape of this out during trial.

Little Lamb
51802
Points
Little Lamb 08/30/11 - 08:32 am
0
0
Insider got me thinking: The

Insider got me thinking: The commission passed the personnel, policies and procedures manual with six votes and the ministers sued, saying it should require eight votes to pass such a manual. Now, if the city wants to avoid the lawsuit, one way would be to rescind the personnel, policies and procedures manual. But if they rescinded it by only six votes, would it be rescinded, or would they have to have eight? That's a puzzle.

david jennings
625
Points
david jennings 08/30/11 - 09:14 am
0
0
I know Fred Russell is not a

I know Fred Russell is not a perfect admin.but I think he has better ideas than those so opposed to him.I also think the opposition is about more than the raises.Its good Russell is hanging tough,but,Im afraid in the end he will go.The attitude of the Rev. Ivey says a lot about where RC is headed.

lexcabguy2004
0
Points
lexcabguy2004 08/30/11 - 09:23 am
0
0
Amazing how they furlough

Amazing how they furlough some people because they need that hundred or two hundred dollars a month from the low ranking people, but the high managers (and some low)got $18, 000 raises.

Then you take people like Tom Beck, who a couple years ago almost got the entire aquatic center shut down because he couldn't make people do their job, yet he deserves a raise. In fact, a lot of parks and rec people got raises and some of them were probably involved in that situation as well. That department alone got $57,000 in raises. They must be a jam up job! We had a saying in the Army about stuff like that, "......., move up"

allhans
25528
Points
allhans 08/30/11 - 09:24 am
0
0
Yellow is the "in style"

Yellow is the "in style" color now? Comments never cease to amaze.

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