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Commissioner's business did other work under city contract

Friday, March 1, 2013 8:29 PM
Last updated Saturday, March 2, 2013 1:33 AM
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Add about $200,000 to the amount that Augusta Commission member Grady Smith’s plumb­ing and air-conditioning business has earned performing work under a city contract.

Grady Smith: Official said his business worked for a contractor, not the county.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Grady Smith: Official said his business worked for a contractor, not the county.

Smith, who recently sought to amend the city’s conflict-of-interest policy to let commissioners and city employee-owned businesses work as subcontractors on city contracts, participated “indirectly” as a subcontractor on Augusta Utilities construction at Fort Gordon in apparent violation of the policy.
Smith’s company, Smith Bro­thers Mechanical, was included on a list of more than 100 subcontractors that performed work for Tetra Tech, the city’s general contractor on the $33.8 million Fort Gor­don project, or for one of its subcontractors.

According to the list, ob­tained through an open-records request, Smith Bro­thers has been paid about 47 percent of a $99,760 bid to Tetra Tech subcontractor Larry Pittman and Associates since the city Utilities De­part­ment let the contract in 2010, the year Smith took office.

The list, assembled by the city’s small and disadvantaged business office, left out another job done by Smith Brothers for Pittman at the site valued at about $140,000, Util­ities Director Tom Wiedmeier said.

“I see where it doesn’t look right, but if they’re gaining work by virtue of bidding, I don’t feel like Utilities has been harmed in any
way,” Wied­meier said. “From what I understand, they’ve done excellent work out there.”

Wiedmeier, who joined the city from a job at Tetra Tech, said he was unaware of any other commissioner doing business on Utilities Department contracts.

Smith defended his company Friday as he has done previously for service calls it did at Augusta 911, the sheriff’s office and other city buildings.

“We are under contract with Pittman and Associates; it has nothing to do with Richmond County,” he said. “I get my checks and am paid by Mr. Pittman.”

Smith said he learned the hard way when advocating for subcontractors that were paid late for work for a general contractor at Daniel Field airport.

“When I tried to stick up for all those subcontractors at Daniel Field that didn’t get paid, I was told it’s not Richmond County,” he said. “My contract is with Pittman. If I went to a court of law, that’s as far as I go.”

Smith’s involvement in city contracts came to light after he asked to change the conflict policy. A search of finance department records
revealed that Smith Brothers was paid directly about $19,000 for the service calls, all authorized by city staffers.
A similar search revealed that Com­missioner Joe Jackson’s company, Kirby Locksmith, did work from 2008-10 on several city offices or vehicles valued at about $1,500.

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle said he’s never tried to hide the $70,785 in tiling work that his business, Augusta Tile Crafters, performed as a subcontractor for general contractor Choate Construction at Au­gusta Regional Airport.

The city’s administrative services committee was expected to review the incidents Monday, but Chairman Bill Lockett said it was the mayor’s role to investigate violations.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver denied knowledge of the mayor’s having that responsibility. He has not scheduled a meeting or workshop on the matter, but an agenda item related to three commissioners’ possible conflicts of interest appears on Tuesday’s commission agenda.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey John­son said the commission could consider a vote to reprimand one or more of the three men for policy violations, which he said were ethical, not criminal, violations.

Comments (27) Add comment
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Little Lamb
45869
Points
Little Lamb 03/01/13 - 09:45 pm
14
0
Decide

Decide whether you want to take taxpayers’ money as a businessman; or whether you want to try to help the taxpayer as a commissioner; but do not do both at the same time. It's called conflict of interest.

Little Lamb
45869
Points
Little Lamb 03/01/13 - 09:49 pm
8
0
Sub

This whole smokescreen about trying to split hairs over the difference between taking taxpayers’ money as a primary contractor vs. a subcontractor is a red herring.

When Geri Sams looks at the bid applications and sees that one of the proposed subcontractors is a commissioner, don't you know that she will do everything in her power to steer the contract that way? She knows which side her bread is buttered on.

Remember, Augusta is notorious for not choosing the low bidder. Perhaps now we know why.

gargoyle
16906
Points
gargoyle 03/01/13 - 11:00 pm
8
0
"Sometimes I wonder whether

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." -- Mark Twain

Mr. Smith needs to do the right thing and retire . Asking for a change in the law to cover a law he had broken wasn't honorable .

triscuit
3083
Points
triscuit 03/01/13 - 11:41 pm
6
0
I thought Pittman and Smith

I thought Pittman and Smith Bros. were te exact same type company. No need for Smith Bros. to sub for Pittman. Smith Bros. is bigger than Pittman's, isn't it? Frankly I'm surprised Sams awards them anything since they are not minority owned.

triscuit
3083
Points
triscuit 03/01/13 - 11:41 pm
4
0
I thought Pittman and Smith

I thought Pittman and Smith Bros. were te exact same type company. No need for Smith Bros. to sub for Pittman. Smith Bros. is bigger than Pittman's, isn't it? Frankly I'm surprised Sams awards them anything since they are not minority owned.

triscuit
3083
Points
triscuit 03/01/13 - 11:41 pm
3
0
I thought Pittman and Smith

I thought Pittman and Smith Bros. were te exact same type company. No need for Smith Bros. to sub for Pittman. Smith Bros. is bigger than Pittman's, isn't it? Frankly I'm surprised Sams awards them anything since they are not minority owned.

GnipGnop
12226
Points
GnipGnop 03/02/13 - 12:17 am
7
0
Well it looks more and more everyday...

like the Roundtree raise was voted for by Smith as a buyoff on the conflict of interest motion soon to come before a vote...pathetic is what this commission is.

Little Lamb
45869
Points
Little Lamb 03/02/13 - 12:58 am
7
0
Shell

Triscuit may have blown this story wide open, if any Augusta media outlet dares publish it. Is Pittman a shell company – a "minority-owned" company who funnels money to Grady Smith's company?

Is there any news media outlet in this town with cajunas big enough to follow this money trail?

I'm Back Again
307
Points
I'm Back Again 03/02/13 - 06:42 am
0
0
Hey Grady, don't you think
Unpublished

Hey Grady, don't you think the right thing to do would have been to amend the law first, and then do business with the county. That's a little thing we folk in the south like to call "bass ackward". But like the commissioners always like to say "it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission". All 3 of you commissioners should be fired, and the DA should send your fraudulent business practices to the grand jury. Period!

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 03/02/13 - 08:22 am
0
0
sounds like the
Unpublished

sounds like the sub-contracting the work out was just a ruse to keep Smith's name off the top line of a contract in hopes that no one would catch it

Riverman1
83701
Points
Riverman1 03/02/13 - 09:13 am
5
0
Shell

I don't know about the city, but when dealing with the federal government shell companies are the rule. They pop up constantly and are awarded contracts under various formulas and THEN hire the people who could actually do the work.

Riverman1
83701
Points
Riverman1 03/02/13 - 09:14 am
4
0
Sub Contractors Listed?

Aren't all the sub contractors listed when a contractor makes a bid with the city?

I'm Back Again
307
Points
I'm Back Again 03/02/13 - 09:19 am
0
0
I have an idea: why not put
Unpublished

I have an idea: why not put together a board of 5 successful business people from another county and send all bids to them. Majority vote wins. That way no one in the county can be accused of being underhanded or sneaky shady. And we would know that successful people chose the best company for the job. Period!

just an opinion
2635
Points
just an opinion 03/02/13 - 09:38 am
7
0
Riverman is right

With the city, once the minority business (which is a higher bid) gets the contract, they sub it to the qualified low bidder in order to complete the work. That way everyone gets a cut. Oh yeah, the taxpayer loses.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 03/02/13 - 09:47 am
1
0
Organized Crime is the history
Unpublished

of Augusta Government. Has not and will not change. How dare the citizens question their elected officials. Public servants who feed continually at the "trough of taxpayers money".

You have to love it when people say, " he is a good guy"; he goes to my church; he loves his kids; he cares for his elderly mother.

He is a criminal never makes the list of accolades. All of these government public servants from the town hall to the White House are active members of ongoing criminal activities. They all qualify for RICO prosecution. The problem is that their "bed fellows" are the ones who would seek prosecution.

Money laundering is what Smith is doing. But hey, non profits and churches are doing the same thing. Shuffling money from one "shadow corporation/LLC to another" so that the IRS cannot find the trail. All of his buddies are doing the same thing or would if given the chance.

Mail fraud, corruption, intimidation at the point of a gun, malfeasance in office, sealed bid manipulation and the list goes on and on.

We never consult Diogenes for his opinion before we vote. If we did we would find that none apply for government positions.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 03/02/13 - 09:53 am
1
0
We once had a "Godfather" in ARC.
Unpublished

Maybe Grady is his successor. That photo looks like one of the Corleone under bosses from Godfather II. They just want to "dip their beak in the proceeds". Just a few points on the street. Sylvia would know, but she can't tell.

"Governor Corleone, Senator Corleone, Commissioner Corleone." "We will get there one day Pop." This is not fiction folks. This is reality.

Little Lamb
45869
Points
Little Lamb 03/02/13 - 10:17 am
7
0
Ethics

Well, we have quite the little legal beagle in Commissioner Bill Lockett. Look at this from the story up above:

The city’s administrative services committee was expected to review the incidents [involving possible ethics ordinance violations – LL] last Monday, but Chairman Bill Lockett said it was the mayor’s role to investigate violations. Mayor Deke Copenhaver denied knowledge of the mayor’s having that responsibility. He has not scheduled a meeting or workshop on the matter. . . .

The commission does not have a standing ethics committee. They could always create an ad hoc ethics committee to investigate allegations when they come up. But Lockett has thrown a monkey wrench in the gears by trying to dump the investigation onto the mayor. The mayor is not going to take the bait. He would have to miss several ribbon-cutting events while doing his investigation. The unpleasantness is not in his self-penned job description.

Aceman
111
Points
Aceman 03/02/13 - 10:41 am
7
0
It's over people

And the crooks won. When they start trying to make corruption legal you might as well just give up and get out. I suspect the "White Flight" is about to turn into a flood.

justthefacts
21746
Points
justthefacts 03/02/13 - 10:45 am
4
0
Minority Contracts

As someone said, do away with them and take the lowest qualified bid. Qualified is the key word. Most times you get what you pay for. On the surface it seems Smith Bros was playing the game, but there could be more to it.

Georgialina
7441
Points
Georgialina 03/02/13 - 12:49 pm
7
0
Util­ities Director Tom Wiedmeier:

“I see where it doesn't look right, but if they’re gaining work by virtue of bidding, I don’t feel like Utilities has been harmed in any
way,” Wied­meier said. “From what I understand, they've done excellent work out there.”

Seriously??? Just because he does not "feel his department has been harmed" has NOTHING to do with the legality of this issue. But of course, this is just business as usual for Augusta politics.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 03/02/13 - 01:26 pm
6
0
The problem is that it's
Unpublished

The problem is that it's "unethical." If it were criminal, as conflict of interest policies should be universally, perhaps it would have more bite.
It doesn't take much more than horse sense to realize that many political figures consider ethical behavior to be nothing more than optional.

triscuit
3083
Points
triscuit 03/02/13 - 04:48 pm
2
0
Pittman is not minority

Pittman is not minority owned, I know that.

just an opinion
2635
Points
just an opinion 03/02/13 - 05:53 pm
4
0
Business Partner

I'm looking for a disabled, Native American female who's great great great grandfather was treated poorly by a Caucasian man. Qualifications: just be able to sign your name. Job title: Owner and CEO. Outcome: I'll make you rich quick. God Bless America

Little Lamb
45869
Points
Little Lamb 03/02/13 - 06:16 pm
1
0
Thanks

Thanks for clarifying, triscuit. In your earlier posts you mentioned "they" were not minority owned, and I just assumed you were talking only about the Smith Brothers.

Little Lamb
45869
Points
Little Lamb 03/02/13 - 06:39 pm
1
0
Thanks, also

And also thank you, Georgialina, for your excellent 11:49 comment. You point out the corrupt culture of Augusta city government by lifting up department head Wiedmeier's own words. Wiedmeier says that as long as a commissioner bids on a project and does acceptable work, he sees nothing wrong with the commissioner violating an ordinance prohibiting commissioners from doing business with the city, either directly or indirectly. In other words, “It's just words on paper. Those words don’t mean anything.”

The culture of corruption also extends to the procurement process. Sure, many companies bid on the projects, but Procurement Director Geri Sams famously rejects bids willy nilly so that a favored contractor can get the moolah.

Judge Carlisle Overstreet pointed out to the city in a court ruling that Georgia state law requires taking the lowest qualified bidder, but Fred Russell does not worry about court orders because they have no teeth in his behind.

Darby
25553
Points
Darby 03/02/13 - 07:22 pm
2
0
Does Smith's vote recent vote for pay increases for....

Roundtree and McIntire give him any political cover or provide any sort of a buffer for him here???

Just thinking out loud....

SemperParatus
3225
Points
SemperParatus 03/02/13 - 07:29 pm
2
0
Shame on Grady Smith

“We are under contract with Pittman and Associates; it has nothing to do with Richmond County,” he said. “I get my checks and am paid by Mr. Pittman.”

Nothing to do with Richmond County? Are you kidding me, Grady? Are you kidding me? You remind me of most episodes of Law and Order where the small businessman is being grilled by the district attorney for doing business with the Cosa Nostra but claiming not to know who he was really working for. The problem is, Grady, this is Augusta, a small city, and what juror would believe for a minute that you and your family business don't know the people you are doing work for, particularly in work where bidding is required. And especially because you are an elected official. A juror would think that you, as an elected official, would ask, hmmm, is the project taking place in Augusta Richmond County? Yes or no? No? OK! Move on! Yes? I had better ask some questions! But not you! You are a buffoon, a political hack. I rushed to the polls to vote for you but I will hurry even faster to vote you out of office when the opportunity arises! Rest assured I am contacting everyone I know in the 10th district as well. You are a disgrace. Here I thought, wow, we are electing a business savvy guy to the commission and boy was I wrong! Well, you are savvy alright. In the wrong way. You made a comment recently that you would vote for Jerry Brigham if he ran against you. Well, I hope that you will keep your word. Jerry is an accountant and is above reproach. We need him now more than ever. Goodbye Grady. Hello Jerry!

gargoyle
16906
Points
gargoyle 03/02/13 - 07:33 pm
1
0
To answer your question Darby

To answer your question Darby : It walks like a duck

Little Lamb
45869
Points
Little Lamb 03/02/13 - 07:39 pm
1
0
Good Comment

SemperParatus - - - I was happy to vote for Sean Frantom for 10th District Commissioner. Sadly, Sean lost. If Grady Smith has one ounce of decency, he will resign the commission in the next four or five weeks, citing health reasons, and let us have a special election.

mike1sc
217
Points
mike1sc 03/03/13 - 03:28 pm
1
0
Marion Williams Strikes Again!

Oh yes he has! Can someone make this a daily comic strip? This gets uglier each week.

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