This was the second time the matter had gone before the commission, and the increases got the needed sixth supporting vote from Commissioner Grady Smith, who was absent because of illness last week.
Smith said he had checked into the performance of Sheriff Richard Roundtree and learned staff members were pleased with their new boss.
“If you’re going to talk the talk, he’s walking the walk. He gets in the squad car, he goes out and checks around with things. I think he’s smart enough, too; he’s brought in some new blood. I say give the man a chance,” Smith said. “There’s been a lot of negative, but you know, you might disagree with the coach, but keep it in the dugout.”
A previous vote on the pay raises to Roundtree and Solicitor-General Kellie Kenner-McIntyre, who became the county’s first black sheriff and first black female solicitor after their election last year, failed by one vote last week and fell along color lines. The increases had the support Tuesday of Grady Smith, Corey Johnson, Bill Fennoy, Bill Lockett and Alvin Mason. Commission members Mary Davis, Joe Jackson, Donnie Smith and Wayne Guilfoyle were opposed.
Roundtree and Kenner-McIntyre, who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, requested the salary supplements in letters they sent to City Administrator Fred Russell in January. Roundtree sought a 15 percent increase over the minimum of $110,000 set by local legislation to $126,500 based on his qualifications and experience. Kenner-McIntyre wanted a 10 percent increase to the solicitor’s minimum salary of $97,000, to bring her salary to $106,700.
The commission met behind closed doors with attorneys for more than an hour before the regular meeting. Russell previously said he supported the raises based on the job descriptions of each and the salaries paid other department heads.
Smith, a lieutenant with the Georgia State Patrol, said he opposed the increases because other city employees have been denied a cost-of-living adjustment this year because of city budget constraints.
In other business, the commission voted 9-1 to give Mobility Transit Services LLC, the company that runs the city bus service, 90 days’ notice of its intent to terminate its contract. Guilfoyle opposed it.
“Clearly Mobility has not lived up to the standard that they need to as far as adequate transportation for Augusta-Richmond County,” Mason said. “As we begin to move forward with expanding, extending transportation, one should not be rewarded for doing a bad job by being given more money.”
The commission last year warned Mobility of several contract violations related to late reporting, late payment of vendors and rider complaints.
Lockett, who has championed restoring a city-run transit system at least since Mobility took over in August 2011, said the Florida-based company hadn’t created the $400,000 annual savings it promised and has no local staff other than former city transit employees originally laid off in the outsourcing.
“This is something we’ve been working on for well in excess of a year, and we finally got the votes to do something about it,” Lockett said.
Those former city bus and paratransit drivers likely will be called on to operate the service when the city terminates the contract, he said.
Lockett achieved another one of his objectives Tuesday with the commission’s unanimous decision to add Veterans Day as a paid holiday for city employees.