Augusta commissioners won't be allowed to work as contractors for the city under any circumstances, a subcommittee charged with reviewing the issue decided Tuesday.
The subcommittee of four commissioners had the support of three others who sat in, with the exception of Commissioner Grady Smith, who owns a plumbing company with his brother.
"Y'all are smart. You got in another business besides construction," Smith said. "You don't have to lay awake at night thinking about who you may have to lay off."
Smith and two other commissioners, tile contractor Wayne Guilfoyle and locksmith Joe Jackson, were censured earlier this year by the commission for performing work for the city, prompting a commission review of the ordinance in place for more than a decade. Guilfoyle said he'd never concealed the work he did as a subcontractor while Jackson said he'd quit accepting payment for on-call lock work.
The subcommittee, assembled by Commissioner Donnie Smith, reviewed other cities' conflict of interest policies at a Tuesday meeting before deciding to rule out the possibility of a commissioner doing any work, whether directly or at arm's length, under a city contract. The existing ordinance allowed a commissioner to bid on work with full commission approval, but none obtained it.
Donnie Smith was joined by Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson and commissioners Alvin Mason, Mary Davis, Bill Fennoy and Marion Williams in eliminating all exceptions for commissioners to bid on contracts.
"If you back away from that, it gives the perception… that we are softening up the stance," Mason said.
Jurisdictions vary greatly in their approach. Most metro Atlanta cities and counties use an ethics board to rule on conflicts. State procurement law allows certain officials to bid on projects under a certain amount when sealed competitive bids are used, General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie said.
"My vote would be that we do not allow commissioners to do work with the government," said Smith, a state agency employee.
The subcommittee's next task will be to explore how to examine conflicts if they arise, and later, how to penalize a commissioner who breaks the ordinance, Smith said.
The commission's toughest penalty, a censure, is little more than a written warning.
The subcommittee meeting preceded a lengthy regular commission meeting that saw extensive discussion but little action. The commission referred the matter of two-hour parking limits on Broad and adjoining streets – a hot-button issue for many downtown merchants and businesses – to a later committee meeting for further study while a moratorium on tickets will remain in effect.