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Subcommittee to review Augusta conflict of interest policy

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 10:17 PM
Last updated Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:50 AM
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In a move that surprised some on the panel, Augusta Commissioner Donnie Smith took the matter of the commission's conflict of interest policy in a new direction Tuesday.

Passengers board an Augusta Public Transit bus downtown. Ideas have been brought before the Commission for the expansion of the bus service into south and west Augusta.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Passengers board an Augusta Public Transit bus downtown. Ideas have been brought before the Commission for the expansion of the bus service into south and west Augusta.

In the absence of commissioners Bill Fennoy and Bill Lockett, who have championed tougher penalties for their colleagues who violate the ordinance, Smith motioned Tuesday that a subcommittee including himself, Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, commissioners Mary Davis and Alvin Mason and the city attorney study the ordinances in place in other Georgia jurisdictions and return with recommended revisions within 45 days.

Smith said his plan, which passed 8-0, will allow the commission “to compare apples to apples,” the conflict provisions in effect in similarly-populated Georgia cities and counties, to see what other jurisdictions consider a conflict and how they penalize violators.

“Currently it's very vague about when you're doing business with the government,” he said. “That's the whole purpose, to examine the entire ordinance.”

In effect for 13 years, the policy ensnared three commissioners earlier this year who admitted their companies had performed work either as contractors, subcontractors, or sub-subcontractors under city contracts. The policy appears to prohibit any direct or arms-length transaction, and the commission imposed the stiffest penalty available – a censure, or warning – against the three.

Throughout the process and afterward, several commissioners complained that the punishment wasn't severe enough, including Marion Williams, who called it meaningless and Fennoy, who returned it to the commission agenda. Fennoy and Lockett were in Chicago on Tuesday attending an American Planning Association conference where the city is receiving an award for its redevelopment efforts in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem communities.

“I'm thinking it's a step in the right direction,” Williams said after the meeting. “Employees who do that, they're terminated.”

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he trusted the subcommittee, which includes two newly-elected commissioners and two in their second terms. “I think they'll come up with the right decision,” he said.

Another surprise item for several commissioners Tuesday involved renewed requests from Richmond County Probate Judge Harry James and Clerk of Court Elaine Johnson, who also was honored Tuesday for 40 years' service to local government, for the city to increase the locally-funded portion of their salaries.

Each sought an increase of more than $10,000, but both requests failed. James’ request saw only two supporting votes, from Mason and Williams, while the clerk of court's request was supported by Mason, Williams and Guilfoyle.

In other action, the commission heard the entreaties of former Super C’s dance hall owner Charles Cummings and Pastor Christopher Johnson for increased bus service throughout Richmond County and the need to improve upon Mobility Transit, the private firm that has the city bus and paratransit contract for a few more months.

Both speakers’ comments were accepted as information, but the commission appeared to agree that a plan already was in place. The group recently decided to give Mobility notice of its intent to terminate the bus contract and develop a transit plan.

“I need for you to know with some confidence that these are things we are addressing very, very seriously,” Mason said. “I don't want anyone to leave from here thinking that this has not been addressed at an extensive level.”

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Little Lamb
46859
Points
Little Lamb 04/17/13 - 08:52 am
1
0
Sorry, Donnie

No, Commissioner Donnie Smith, the prohibition of city officials doing business with the city is not vague:

“Currently it's very vague about when you're doing business with the government,” Commissioner Donnie Smith said.

Here is the text 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;

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That's what you call clear, not vague.

Little Lamb
46859
Points
Little Lamb 04/17/13 - 09:01 am
1
0
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Where is Gomer Pyle when you need him?

Another surprise item for several commissioners Tuesday involved renewed requests from Richmond County Probate Judge Harry James and Clerk of Court Elaine Johnson . . . for the city to increase the locally-funded portion of their salaries.

Also, where is Willow Bailey when you need her? She has often expressed dismay (which I share) about the practice of commissioners allowing the same request to be presented over and over after the matter has failed to pass.

What Augusta needs is an ordinance stating that a motion that has failed to pass cannot be entertained again for at least four years.

soapy_725
43757
Points
soapy_725 04/17/13 - 09:47 am
0
0
No conflict of interest in ARC.
Unpublished

Just business as usual. Corruption, malfeasance, nest feathering, nepotism, monetary profit and kingdom building are the reasons "folk runs for office". S.O.P. in the ARC of No Covenant.

A government town with money to be made. Just as certain occupations follow military installations. Or any large government project or installation. Alcohol, drugs, bars, tattoo parlors, prostitutes and payday scam artist.

Speaking of political prostitutes. Those who sell themselves to strangers for money.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 04/17/13 - 10:06 am
0
0
Maybe the voters can just

Maybe the voters can just clean house and find people that won't try to exceed their capacity to garner more influence/money.

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