At least two Augusta Commission members would like to see the city's conflict of interest policy have a little more bite than the “censure” the body inflicted on three of its members March 5 for working as subcontractors on city jobs.
“I think the consequences should be a little bit stiffer,” said Commissioner Bill Fennoy, who placed the item on a Monday administrative services committee agenda. “I think any time an elected official knowingly does business with the city, they should resign.”
The policy, which forbids any elected official or city employee from benefitting financially from doing work for the city, either directly or indirectly as a subcontractor, offers the commission only the options of a reprimand or more formal censure.
Fennoy said he’ll seek guidance on the issue from the city attorney and fellow commissioners at Monday’s meeting.
“I just don't think censure is a deterrent,” he said.
Last year, Commissioner Grady Smith’s effort to change the same policy to allow commissioners to work as subcontractors led to his admission that his company, Smith Brothers Mechanical, had bid to do plumbing work at the new Richmond County Sheriff's Office south Augusta substation.
Smith later withdrew his bid, which he said the sheriff’s office had asked him to make, but acknowledged Smith Brothers had performed two other jobs at Fort Gordon, where a city Utilities department construction project contractor hired Smith’s firm as a subcontractor.
Smith denied knowing the city had the construction job on the Army post, while two other commissioners – tile contractor Wayne Guilfoyle and locksmith Joe Jackson – also admitted they had done work for city government, and on March 5, the commission voted to censure the three, resulting in a formal written reprimand for each.
Commissioner Bill Lockett said he too favors increasing the available penalties for breaking the ethics policy, but Lockett has several other weighty items on Monday's administrative services agenda, including reviewing the findings of a 2009 “Disparity Study” of the use of women- and minority-owned businesses in the award of city contracts.
Lockett has also included a discussion of early retirement options for city employees, a report on pay increases and promotions awarded by the city administrator, having a city employee solicit retail business in areas “not served by the Downtown Development Authority” and adopting a rotating schedule for committee meetings.
Other items up for committee discussion Monday include:
• Asking the administrator to present a proposal for a partnership between First Tee of Augusta and Augusta Municipal Golf Course and proposals from two private firms also seeking to run the course;
• Issuing $20 million in taxable bonds to cover Augusta Utilities’ debt service requirements, required after the city’s bond rating exceeded the bond insurer’s rating, according to Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier.