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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
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.

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soitgoes 03/04/13 - 08:52 am
What the heck?

The Georgia general assembly is poised to pass legislation STRENGTHENING the ethics rules for all Representatives and Senators and Augusta Commissioners are seeking to WEAKEN its own ethics rules????!!!! Public office is supposed to be about public SERVICE, not private gain. ARC Commission should adopt ethics rules that MIRROR that of the General Assembly. If you want to do business with the city, don't run for elected office. Period. How is this very basic concept getting lost among the Commissioners??

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