Government

More News | | | Editor

City audit finds errors in 44 raises awarded to select Augusta employees

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 5:54 PM
Last updated Thursday, June 6, 2013 6:54 PM
  • Follow Government

An internal city audit released Friday details several administrative, math and procedural errors in the way 44 retroactive pay raises were awarded select city employees in July.

See the audit from Baird & Co. (pdf format)

The raises, awarded as most city employees are enduring furloughs and raise freezes, triggered a call from Commissioners Alvin Mason and Bill Lockett to fire City Administrator Fred Russell, but the move has yet to obtain the six supporting votes it needs to pass.

Requested by Commissioner Jerry Brigham, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and Mayor Deke Copenhaver as members of the city's pension and audit committee, the audit by longtime city auditor Baird & Company CPAs details several instances where the city's complex new personnel policy and procedures manual was not followed, but only two occasions where the raises were higher than Russell is authorized to give.

Among its findings:

• One raise was more than the 10 percent allowed for employees promoted to a new pay grade

• One raise, an increase of a part-time solid waste employee's hourly wage to $10, was more than a 15 percent increase, the maximum allowed

• Two raises were mathematically incorrect, slightly less than 10 percent specified

• Nine other raises were higher than the scheduled pay grade increases for promoted employees, but within 15 percent

• Ten of the raises' effective dates were changed on forms from April to May with no signature or initials to indicate who made the changes

• Thirty of the same forms had request dates later than the effective dates of the raises, and four were missing department head approval

• Five forms documenting employees who were laid off, then rehired with raises, were missing Russell's approval

The audit does not examine the retroactive nature of the increases, but notes that the personnel manual does not address retroactive salary increases either.

While retroactive raises are against the law, the Augusta employees given raises were paid a lump sum for the amount they would have earned if the raises went into effect in May.

The manual prohibits Russell from awarding raises of more than 15 percent without commission approval, but it allows the administrator to reclassify workers at new pay grades with associated salaries more than 15 percent higher.

The complex new document has been a bone of contention with Mason and Lockett, who said he was not surprised by the audit findings.

"This is something that happens when you make hasty decisions," Lockett said, citing other discrepancies not examined by the Baird.

Former Human Resources Director Rod Powell, who helped the city law department draft the lengthy manual, said he'd forwarded documentation about each raise and reclassification through the law department prior to their implementation.

At a morning workshop, Russell defended the 44 raises - awarded to city Engineering, Solid Waste, Recreation, Finance, Utilities and Administrative personnel - as increased pay for employees with expanded job duties, while other department heads made their case to add or promote staff.

Russell listened to their requests, but said he remained "afraid" to approve "dozens" of raises already in the works for a reorganized Utilities department, because of prior commission and public disapproval.

Joining the group with a request was Copenhaver, who wants to add a $100,000 economic development professional to his staff.

Augusta "needs somebody within the government dedicated to bring in initiatives," the mayor said.

Comments (22) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 09/23/11 - 06:23 pm
0
0
Is Deke out if his mind? We

Is Deke out if his mind? We already have the Development Authority of Richmond County. We already have the DDA (which should be disbanded). The question that should be asked is, why do we even need to have a mayor making $76,000 a year? Can anyone tell me exactly what the mayor does to justify that salary? And he already has a highly paid staff. To me the whole mayor's dept should just be eliminated. It really has no purpose under the consolidated government anyway.

dougk
3
Points
dougk 09/23/11 - 08:00 pm
0
0
one word: incompetence.
Unpublished

one word: incompetence.

Privy
104
Points
Privy 09/23/11 - 08:13 pm
0
0
Why do they not audit all the

Why do they not audit all the departments (at least 5 years) and see who is getting paid for what now, I know of employees who have gotten interim pay for jobs and have never done the work, the jobs were abolished and yet they still receive the pay. Now this should have been caught and dealt with by the department heads and Human Resources. There were employees that were doing jobs that were not getting paid for and have yet been reimbursed for it

Please, please do more investigating! There were numerous things that could have been done to save money by the county that were ignored.

The Mayor and the Commissioners are not really running the city as just about everyone believes, but it is the Department Heads. Believe that!

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 09/23/11 - 08:48 pm
0
0
The mayor should make no more

The mayor should make no more than a commissioner. He actually has less authority than a commissioner. And why does he need a big staff? The commissioners don't have a staff at their disposal and they are the ones who actually have the power to make decisions. All the mayor really does is oversee commission meetings and sends out a weekly email bulletin. That is not a full-time job.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 09/23/11 - 09:13 pm
0
0
Interesting thought. Why is

Interesting thought. Why is there a Mayor?

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
Points
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 09/23/11 - 09:18 pm
0
0
No wonder no one in the

No wonder no one in the Marble Palace could call the GBI about Kendrick not putting the $25,000. on the Brinks Truck we sent to pick it up just before it disapeared from an open safe in his office.

Has he got the goods like this or worse on E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y in the Marble Palace? WOW!!! ha hahha

Little Lamb
47005
Points
Little Lamb 09/23/11 - 10:03 pm
0
0
Susan McCord

Susan McCord reported:

Joining the group with a request was Copenhaver, who wants to add a $100,000 economic development professional to his staff.

Please, please, please, Commissioners — please put a wooden stake in this vampirish request. We have enough economic development "professionals" slopping from the city government trough without adding a new one!

dougk
3
Points
dougk 09/23/11 - 10:28 pm
0
0
It's becoming very apparent
Unpublished

It's becoming very apparent that there is no one is competent or has a clue in augusta government. They all worried about bringing in people from the outside to drop some bucks and not worried about he people who have to endure each and every year here year round. There is no grand plan that will make the csra desireable to visit unless it becomes desirebable to those who are here.

double_standard
166
Points
double_standard 09/23/11 - 10:32 pm
0
0
As I have stated before

As I have stated before Commissioner Bill Lockett was the only one to read the manual the others just went along and now look what we have a definitive case of mis-appropriating funds. Another bill from an outside firm, and the money in the tax office is still missing. Race doesn't divide this city its stupidity.

allhans
24030
Points
allhans 09/23/11 - 11:05 pm
0
0
"Five forms documenting

"Five forms documenting employees who were laid off, then rehired with raises, were missing Russell's approval" this and several more actions with no approval. Surely they have gotten rid of the payroll clerk who ran these through despite knowing that it was improper.

Little Lamb
47005
Points
Little Lamb 09/23/11 - 11:31 pm
0
0
Sadly, allhans, they have

Sadly, allhans, they have not.

JRC2024
9309
Points
JRC2024 09/24/11 - 08:06 am
0
0
dougk, speak for yourself. I

dougk, speak for yourself. I am not stupid.

Little Lamb
47005
Points
Little Lamb 09/24/11 - 08:30 am
0
0
Okay, when Mason & Lockett

Okay, when Mason & Lockett sought to fire Russell, Brigham & Jackson, said, "Not so fast, we need to have an accountant audit the raises and see what Russell did. We have to wait for the audit." Well, now they have the audit report. It's damning for Russell. It shows him to be arbitrary, duplicitous, inaccurate, inattentive to details, error-prone, and not truthful. Isn't that enough to fire him with cause and send him packing without a severance package?

He first told Mason & Lockett that the raises were within his newly-granted authority to give. The auditor says no.

He then told Mason & Lockett that the raises were for managerial personnel whose duties had increased under his "reorganization." The auditor reports some were for non-supervisory employees (including at least one part-time employee).

The auditor now documents that the raises were granted with retroactive pay, which we have learned is illegal.

Isn't that enough?

Little Lamb
47005
Points
Little Lamb 09/24/11 - 10:47 am
0
0
Well, if the commission is

Well, if the commission is too timid to fire Russell, this audit report at least gives them the cover to rescind the illegal raises.

Tell it like it is
35
Points
Tell it like it is 09/24/11 - 10:51 am
0
0
Exactly why is there a Mayor

Exactly why is there a Mayor ? Fred thinks that is his job. Again, and again I say get rid of Fred Russell. A lot of confusion would be solved then. Go Fred Go, get out of politics you weren't meant for them.

Little Lamb
47005
Points
Little Lamb 09/24/11 - 10:52 am
0
0
If the city's internal

If the city's internal auditing firm found this much illegality, miscalculation, and general shenanigans (laying off then rehiring at higher pay just to get around the policy); just imagine what an independent outside auditing firm would find!

Just imagine what a special grand jury would find!

They empaneled a special grand jury to investigate Ronnie Few. Why not empanel one to investigate Fred Russell?

Little Lamb
47005
Points
Little Lamb 09/24/11 - 11:03 am
0
0
Susan McCord reported: At a

Susan McCord reported:

At a morning workshop . . . department heads made their case to add or promote staff. . . . Joining the group with a request was Copenhaver, who wants to add a $100,000 economic development professional to his staff.

We taxpayers thought the purpose of consolidation and reorganization was to reduce the size and the cost of city government. Boy were we wrong!

jeannette
0
Points
jeannette 09/24/11 - 11:06 am
0
0
I agree with Bev. According

I agree with Bev. According to the publlished county budget, the proposed $100,000 is more than the Development Authority of Richmond County currently receives from the commissioners annualy. Looks like they get about $65,000 per year. If the commissioners have that kind of money to spend, give it to the Development Authority, who actually brings in the jobs.

Justin4466
43
Points
Justin4466 09/24/11 - 03:49 pm
0
0
Can we all agree that this is

Can we all agree that this is the very reason a non-elected position should have absolute authority simply because six votes are in his pocket. Or maybe he is in their pocket.

I agree with LL, if the friendly auditing firm (who has overstayed the recommended three years without a rebid) says there is a problem what happens if a real outside firm did the audit?

raul
5332
Points
raul 09/24/11 - 09:19 pm
0
0
Sounds like the HR department

Sounds like the HR department needs a scrub down. Pretty sloppy.

Discussionstarter
495
Points
Discussionstarter 09/24/11 - 11:09 pm
0
0
Every one who signed off on

Every one who signed off on these poorly completed documents should be fired for total incompetence. There is no excuse for these kind of mistakes!

copperhead
1035
Points
copperhead 09/25/11 - 06:20 am
0
0
Stop complaining and do as

Stop complaining and do as they tell you like good little sheeple. The running of the government is none of your business anyway! Fall in line or get out!

jackrussell
219
Points
jackrussell 09/25/11 - 08:20 am
0
0
I agree Bev. Our mayor is

I agree Bev. Our mayor is nothing but a spokesperson. I don't know why his position even exists. And I certainly don't think he should be paid $76,000 for what ridiculously little he does!

Little Lamb
47005
Points
Little Lamb 09/25/11 - 02:33 pm
0
0
Susan McCord

Susan McCord reported:

Joining the group with a request was Copenhaver, who wants to add a $100,000 economic development professional to his staff.

I wonder if Mayor Copenhave has already picked out the person he wishes to take the $100,000 position? Could it perhaps be that Donna LeCount who wrote the baseball stadium letter in Sunday's paper?

Whoever it is, you can be that he/she will work full time to promote the city's financing of the boondoggle downtown baseball stadium. That will be his/her only priority.

Little Lamb
47005
Points
Little Lamb 09/25/11 - 02:41 pm
0
0
Mayor Deke Copenhaver said

Mayor Deke Copenhaver said Augusta "needs somebody within the government dedicated to bring in initiatives."

Excuse me, but we've already got the Richmond County Development Authority, the Downtown Development Authority, the Downtown Business District Association, the Convention & Tourism Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and surely more organizations I don't even know about dedicated to development. The mayor can cheerlead those organizations on without having a $100,000 staffer under him.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs