Commissioner conflicts on Tuesday's agenda

Three Augusta Com­mission members who have admitted profiting from city contracts could learn their fate at a commission meeting Tuesday.

An agenda item, carried over from the Feb. 25 meeting of the Administrative Services Committee, calls for the commission to discuss allegations that Grady Smith, Joe Jackson and Wayne Guilfoyle wrongfully benefited directly or indirectly from city contracts.

What could happen when the 10-member governing body reaches the agenda item remains to be seen, however.

“The charter states that the mayor is responsible for the enforcement of ordinances, codes, etc.,” Commissioner Bill Lockett insisted Monday. “I did what I was supposed to do.”

After referring the agenda item to Mayor Deke Copenhaver last week, Lockett cited the commission’s 2007 censure of then-Commissioner Calvin Holland for instructing an employee to access material on City Administrator Fred Russell’s computer.

In that instance, Copen­haver presided over a commission meeting at which evidence against Holland was presented. The mayor later sought an impartial ruling from Atlanta lawyer Quinton Seay, who said that Holland hadn’t broken the law but had acted in a manner disruptive to city government. Holland asked Copenhaver to rescind the censure, but commission votes to do so failed.

If the probe into the three commissioners’ activities continues, any evidence must be received in open session, according to general counsel Andrew MacKenzie.

The commission can involve other parties – such as the mayor, city administrator or general counsel – in the investigation, but it is the final arbiter, he said.

Smith has admitted that his company, Smith Brothers Mechanical, profited from plumbing and air conditioning work as a subcontractor on an Augusta Utilities project at Fort Gordon and on several service calls for the sheriff’s office, 911 center and other city buildings since he took office in 2010.

Jackson acknowledged his locksmith business performed several service calls from 2008 to 2010, while Guilfoyle conceded last year that his tile business served as subcontractor on renovations to Augusta Regional Airport’s new terminal for private aircraft.

A local pastor said he has grave concerns about “a systemic issue” of corruption in city government.

The Rev. Christopher Johnson, who will speak to the commission on the matter today, said the city must address an atmosphere that allows commissioners and others to break the rules, starting with the three in question.

“The only reason someone feels compelled to keep doing this is for practice,” Johnson said. “Where is the purchasing department? Where are the administrators? We’re John Q. Citizen; we don’t have time to be policing them.”

Commissioner's business did other work under city contract
No action taken on commissioners' conflicts
Committee slated to review potential conflicts
Exception would let commissioners do business with Augusta
TOPIC PAGE: Augusta-Richmond County Commission

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