Government

More News | | | Editor

Censured commissioner maintains innocence

Sunday, March 10, 2013 6:59 PM
Last updated Monday, March 11, 2013 1:12 AM
  • Follow Government

A push for closure on the matter of three Augusta commissioners doing business with the city isn’t getting much help from one of the three, Super District 10 Commissioner Grady Smith.

Smith, who admitted doing business under city contracts more than once, including an ongoing subcontract Smith Brothers Mechanical has on an Augusta Utilities construction project at Fort Gordon, insisted Friday that his company was doing business with Tetra Tech, the general contractor on the $33.8 million city water and sewer project.

Subcontract in hand, Smith argued at a Friday meeting with General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie about what it said: Listed as “owner” of the project is Tetra Tech, while Smith Brothers’ subcontract is shown as being with Tetra Tech subcontractor Larry Pittman & Associates.

“I was painted like I was doing something dishonest,” Smith said Friday. “That (Pittman) was the guy that approached us. He’s the general; we were the sub. Who does that say was the owner?” he asked, pointing to the contract.

The commission begins a new committee meeting cycle Monday under the specter of last Tuesday’s censure of Smith and Commissioners Joe Jackson and Wayne Guilfoyle, a move that Guilfoyle and Jackson said later in the week they were glad to have behind them.

During the meeting, Commissioner Donnie Smith motioned to close evidence against each of the three commissioners after each made a brief statement admitting the ethics violations, and to make a decision on their punishment that day, in the open.

“There has been an admission by all three commissioners. I don’t need a lot of discussion on that because it’s happened,” Commissioner Alvin Mason said. Motions to censure all three passed.

Guilfoyle said the matter caused his family and the commission much “embarrassment” and that all were glad to put it behind them. He said his non-use of a city gas card, phone or insurance was evidence of his not seeking office for personal gain.

“The good thing about this is it’s put a line in the sand that everybody has to comply with,” Guilfoyle said.

Guilfoyle and Jackson agreed to abstain from doing city business for two years after they leave office, while Smith’s firm remains in the middle of the job at Fort Gordon.

“I’m hurrying as fast as I can to finish,” Smith said Friday. “I told everybody in my office we’re not bidding anything to do with the county.”

Commissioner Marion Williams, who with Commissioner Bill Lockett led the charge to investigate the three commissioners, said the move might have further divided the already-fractious commission, despite the group having “bigger fish to fry.”

“In some ways it probably brought us closer, but in a lot of ways it probably divided us because people don’t understand. They think we’re after somebody,” Williams said. “I don’t know if there was anybody else involved or not; if I find out there is somebody else involved, I think they ought to be exposed in the same way.”

Comments (15) 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.
just an opinion
2718
Points
just an opinion 03/10/13 - 08:47 pm
12
1
Rev. Williams exposing people

The Reverend Williams says he wants to expose more people. How bout lets expose you for asking the city for $250,000 for your city assessed $51,000 church in the hood. The city paid you off $230,000 because as the school board attorney Mr. Fletcher said "it will be a political nightmare not to." So did you split that money with the 35 members or did you....? well you know, enjoy the fruits of your labor.

gargoyle
18573
Points
gargoyle 03/10/13 - 09:19 pm
7
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

Which does Mr. Smith personify.

Georgialina
7441
Points
Georgialina 03/10/13 - 10:32 pm
7
0
@ Gargoyle

I agree with the M.Twain quote but I think it may be more of a case that G.Smith (and most of the other commissioners) thinks we are imbeciles and will believe that crap he says.

404Law
226
Points
404Law 03/10/13 - 11:55 pm
5
1
Revised headline and byline...

Headline: 'Censured Commissioner Maintains Ignorance"
Byline: Smith says he didn't know what he was apologizing for during Commission meeting

Little Lamb
46923
Points
Little Lamb 03/10/13 - 11:59 pm
4
5
Church

Let's give it a rest on the church thing. The trustees of the church sold it to the board of education, not the city. There are no conflicts of interest there, and there are no ethics violations.

What the church sale exposed were faulty assessments. The county tax assessor puts valuations in certain neighborhoods way below the true market value, thus granting the residents and business owners in those neighborhoods improperly low tax bills year after year after year.

Little Lamb
46923
Points
Little Lamb 03/11/13 - 08:20 am
6
0
Question

Susan McCord tells us that this contract between the city government (utilities department) and Tetra Tech involved $33.8 million dollars. That's a lot of dollars. My question is, did the commission approve this contract, or does Fred Russell have the authority to approve contracts of this magnitude on his own?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 03/11/13 - 08:43 am
4
0
Mr Smith doth protest too

Mr Smith doth protest too much.

quote “I was painted like I was doing something dishonest,”

I don't think he gets the point. My understanding is that there's a conflict of interest issue and being sort of a grey area, the ultimate determination was that business cannot be conducted in the manner it was conducted. That's all. I don't see where there was evidence of monetary gain through unethical means, just the potential for it.

I would also be interested in clarification to LL's question.

daviddunagan
331
Points
daviddunagan 03/11/13 - 09:27 am
6
0
Little Lamb, I don't think you get it.

Marion William's "church thing" as you call it IS relative. He is the one pushing this conflict of interest with Mr. Smith. Were you familiar with the building that he was paid off for in the amount $230,000. I was and do you think I would have received that if if were mine? You state there were no conflicts of interest there. The school board attorney said it will be a "political nightmare" if they didn't pay him off. Go back and read your tax bill. The school board is funded through property taxes which is governed by the commission. So yes, I think it is all relative. Kinda like the pot calling the kettle black. DD

TrueVoice
22
Points
TrueVoice 03/11/13 - 09:28 am
6
1
Simple answer to this.

Were any of the commissioners given work where they were not the low bidder? If so we have a problem.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 03/11/13 - 09:29 am
6
0
Shady Grady. Looking for

Shady Grady. Looking for excuses to justify his dishonesty.

Red Headed Step Child
4184
Points
Red Headed Step Child 03/11/13 - 11:28 am
4
0
It would seem that there is a

It would seem that there is a conflict of interest if you have ANYTHING to do with a transaction - regardless at what level. When in doubt, check it out. All he needed to do was ask and he could've saved himself a lot of grief...

Little Lamb
46923
Points
Little Lamb 03/11/13 - 10:42 am
3
0
Missing the point

TrueVoice, your question is interesting, but it is not relevant to the censure of Grady Smith. Please read the following, pasted directly from the city code:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ARTICLE 3 ETHICS IN PUBLIC PROCUREMENT

Sec. 1-1-27. Employee or public official conflict of interest.

It shall be unethical for any Augusta-Richmond County employee or public official, as defined in the Augusta-Richmond County Code section 1-1-22(c)(8), to transact any business or participate directly or indirectly in a procurement contract when the employee or public official knows that:

(a) The employee or public official or any member of the employee's or public official's immediate family has a substantial interest or financial interest pertaining to the procurement contract, except that the purchase of goods and services from businesses which a member of the Commission or other Augusta-Richmond County employee has a financial interest is authorized as per O.C.G.A. § 36-1-14, or the procurement contract is awarded pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-10-22 and § 45-10-24, or the transaction is excepted from said restrictions by O.C.G.A. § 45-10-25;
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Notice there is nothing in there about low bidder. Obviously Smith Brothers Mechanical was not covered by the exceptions at the bottom, or there would be no issue and no censure.

Smith's protest up in the article about "doing something dishonest" is for each individual to decide. I certainly think he is being dishonest now by trying to make us believe that he, as a subcontractor, did not even know he was doing business with the city on that Augusta Utilities Department project to the tune of two or three hundred thousand dollars.

But whether you think it was dishonest or not, it certainly was unethical according to the city's ethics ordinance, thus the censure was warranted.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 03/11/13 - 11:04 am
2
2
It's mind-boggling to me that
Unpublished

It's mind-boggling to me that Mr. Smith cannot get it through his head. Mark Twain had it right.

Little Lamb
46923
Points
Little Lamb 03/11/13 - 11:08 am
4
0
Italics

By the way, the italic typeface in the city code above is in the original. I don't know why they italicized those particular words. But then I don't always know why I italicize some of the things I do.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
But here's something to think about: sure the commissioners receive some instruction about the conflict of interest ordinances and other ethics matters when they become elected. It would be a good idea for them to get some ethics refresher training when they have these retreats they go on.

But just as important would be some ethics training for employees in the procurement department. You would think the buyers, and especially Geri Sams would scan any proposals to see if commissioners’ businesses show up in the subcontractor lists. And at the pre-award meetings, Ms. Sams should look the selected contractor in the eye and ask, “Are you aware of any subcontractor or potential subcontractor who may have any relationship with any city employee or public official?”

I think the procurement department shares some of the blame for this lapse in ethical behavior.

Brad Owens
4727
Points
Brad Owens 03/11/13 - 03:10 pm
1
0
Shady Grady...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

AutumnLeaves
8450
Points
AutumnLeaves 03/11/13 - 04:46 pm
3
1
People living in glass houses

People living in glass houses should not be throwing stones.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs