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Commissioners' requests to be discussed

Sunday, March 10, 2013 8:38 PM
Last updated Monday, March 11, 2013 1:13 AM
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Another issue relating to the Au­gusta Commission’s decision last week to censure three members will be up for discussion Monday.

The issue is what a commissioner can ask a city department head – or any other staff member reporting directly to the commission – to do.

Commissioner Grady Smith asked General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie last fall to draft an amendment to the city’s conflict of interest policy to allow commissioners and employees to work as subcontractors on city projects.

MacKenzie’s action on the item gave rise to the realization that Smith’s and two other commissioners’ companies had worked as subcontractors or contractors on Augusta-Rich­mond County projects, including work for the sheriff’s office, the 911 center, the Rich­mond County
Cor­rectional Insti­tute, Augusta Re­gion­al Airport and the utilities department.

Such requests extend beyond the law department and sometimes leave department heads scrambling to assemble information at a commissioner’s request.

According to MacKenzie, city laws are not clear on the matter.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson asked for “clarity” on what a commissioner can order department heads to do in an item he added to Monday's administrative services committee agenda.


Before committee meetings, the Augusta Commission is scheduled to vote at noon Monday on whether to move forward with funding a full remodel of the Municipal Building instead of a cheaper, partial remodeling job.

Other items on committee agendas Monday include:

• Discussion of funding options for MACH tennis academy

• Whether to use sales tax funds to purchase 30 Dodge Chargers, 10 Chevrolet Impalas and two Chevrolet Tahoes for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office

• Restoring $25,000 for the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon

• A motion of support for Augusta legislators to increase the salaries of Richmond County civil and magistrate judges

• Discussion of the coliseum authority board that runs James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium

• Authorizing the mayor to sign off on forms related to an environmental review of the Cherry Tree Crossing redevelopment project

• Discussion of the procedure for evaluating department heads and other direct reports to the commission

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/11/13 - 09:44 am

It's a time-honored tradition for elected commissioners to ask city workers to do favors for them. Contentions arise, though, when the chain of command is bypassed, and that puts workers in awkward positions of whether to do what a commissioner requests or to do what his supervisor says when they are in conflict.

I thought there was a gentleman's agreement that commissioners would go through the chain of command. If you remember, the censure of Commissioner Calvin Holland was along these lines, when Holland asked a mid-level IT technician to remove the hard drive from Fred (What, me worry?) Russell's computer and deliver the drive to Holland.

It is a little different in this matter here involving the legal department employee, Andrew MacKenzie. If attorney MacKenzie reports to Russell, then Commissioner Grady Smith was clearly wrong. If, however, MacKenzie reports directly to the commission and does not answer to Russell, then the request (or even an order) was appropriate. Why MacKenzie says the law is not clear on this matter is puzzling, since the reporter provided no data about the conflict in the law.

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