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Mason defends use of tickets, money from Heery

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 10:30 PM
Last updated Thursday, June 6, 2013 7:21 AM
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Augusta Commission member and 2014 mayoral hopeful Alvin Mason is defending his acceptance of Heery International Georgia Dome skybox seats and Atlanta Braves tickets and Heery’s direct contributions to his campaign as legal gifts that he has no reason to discontinue.

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Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree (left) addresses a community meeting at Diamond Lakes gymnasium as Commissioner Alvin Mason listens.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree (left) addresses a community meeting at Diamond Lakes gymnasium as Commissioner Alvin Mason listens.

The Augusta Chronicle reported Heery’s numerous gifts and contributions to commissioners as the commission prepared Tuesday to renew the firm’s contract for two more years. Heery and its subconsultants – Gallop and Associates and Dukes, Edwards and Dukes – have received about $9.5 million in fees in the past decade, based on hourly billing rates that in some cases exceed $200 an hour.

Mason deflected questions about the gifts Friday, saying he was preoccupied with the upcoming funeral of three of his neighbors who were victims of a triple homicide.

After the city ethics subcommittee meeting Tuesday, however, he defended his use of the sports tickets and his spending of Heery campaign donations on neighborhood breakfasts and other events. Commissioner Corey Johnson, who also acknowledged accepting the tickets and sponsorships of community events, said he had used the money for community outreach.

“There’s a difference between a gift and courtesy tickets,” Mason said, referring to the city ethics ordinance’s exception of “courtesy tickets or free admission extended to an elected official for an event as a courtesy or for ceremonial purposes” from commissioner reporting requirements.

For Mason, that meant four Heery-sponsored invitations to the firm’s skybox at the Georgia Dome during the Falcons’ 2010 season.

“There’s nothing illegal, period, in reference to that,” Mason said.

Mason went on to defend his and other commissioners’ acceptance of numerous Heery campaign contributions, even when they were not up for re-election.

A Heery document obtained by The Chronicle characterized the contributions as being made to commissioners who supported Heery’s contract.

“You’re talking campaigns,” Mason said. “Lawful campaign contributions.”

Mason even disputed Johnson’s assertion that using the contributions to sponsor district breakfasts and other events in non-election years constituted community outreach.

The firm gave both commissioners $1,500 in 2009, when they were not up for re-election.

“I don’t know about any of that; I’m talking about Commissioner Mason,” Mason said. The breakfasts “can fall under campaign expenditures; absolutely they can.”

In campaign reports, Johnson cited donations to the local campaigns of Aisha Leverette, Bill Fennoy, Jo Rae Jenkins and Harold Jones as how he spent the money, along with $500 for breakfast supplies and $400 to Shelita Williams to hold and cater the breakfast. Mason cited no expenditures of campaign funding for any purpose during 2009.

The two commissioners, however, wrote memos a few months earlier – in August 2009 – on city letterhead to Heery among “10 companies,” Mason said, requesting money for events.

Mason’s memo, also obtained by The Chronicle, sought about $9,800 for “community involvement initiatives” during a non-election year for him.

“Here’s the key to all of this,” Mason said. “It went to the committee to elect Alvin Mason.”

Mason wouldn’t say whether the flow of tickets and other perks from city vendors has slowed since 2009 and 2010, but he cited Augusta National Golf Club’s provision of tickets to commissioners as a similar expression of support. The club, which the Masters Tournament, has no service contract with the city, as Heery, Dukes and Gallop have had for a decade.

“I don’t make the rules; you may not even like them, but they’re there,” Mason said. “I don’t have to stop if I don’t want to stop.”

TOWN HALL MEETING

Commissioner Alvin Mason held a town hall meeting Wednesday at Diamond Lakes gymnasium, inviting Sheriff Richard Roundtree to speak about what residents can do to help the sheriff’s office fight crime. The sheriff fielded questions ranging from the age at which a car seat is no longer required to how the community will deal with an influx of mentally ill patients discharged from area institutions.

– Susan McCord,
staff writer

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prov227
3468
Points
prov227 06/05/13 - 09:54 pm
8
1
Oh really?

“There’s a difference between a gift and courtesy tickets,” Mason said... Parse those words. Mason said. “I don’t have to stop if I don’t want to stop.” (Unless there is a stop sign or you need to slow down so someone isn't hurt.)

ragingbull
945
Points
ragingbull 06/05/13 - 09:55 pm
12
0
Why stop now? Get all you

Why stop now? Get all you can. One day you will be old and will not be able to get any. So, hell, don't stop until you have to.

GiantsAllDay
10496
Points
GiantsAllDay 06/05/13 - 10:32 pm
15
2
And here I thought that

And here I thought that Chicago was the only city where the politicians are crooks and admit that they are crooks.

itsanotherday1
48335
Points
itsanotherday1 06/05/13 - 11:09 pm
14
2
Wow, that is SOME cahoneys.

Wow, that is SOME cahoneys. "It is legal, so I can be bought off at will", as long as it as "LEGAL". And this corrupt _______ is going to be the next mayor? . PUHLEEZE!!!!!!!!!!

deestafford
31943
Points
deestafford 06/05/13 - 11:24 pm
11
1
Now, come on...

don't y'all understand there is a difference between a bribe/gift and this courtesy contribution to my constituent gathering, these courtesy tickets to the ball game in Atlanta, this courtesy Rolex, this courtesy fancy car?
Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?
Now, if you will excuse me I have an ethics meeting to go to.

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 06/06/13 - 03:26 am
12
1
A Little Juice. The Vigorish.

Mason is a made guy with the Heery outfit. Just a wiseguy wearing an Italian suit, a pinky ring, a hankie in the breast pocket and gold cufflinks, collecting a little tax. He’s getting his taste.

Just My Opinion
6264
Points
Just My Opinion 06/06/13 - 03:52 am
19
2
Mason will be elected mayor

Mason will be elected mayor because his "people" will see him as being successful...so he must be smart and good at what he does, right? And that last statement really tells it all...“I don’t have to stop if I don’t want to stop.”! THAT is the mindset of the Entitlement crowd...the rules are already there, so they're just following the rules. It doesn't matter that the rules were made up by self-serving, thieving idiots.
Alvin Mason is on the road to being the next Charles Walker.

chipster48
34
Points
chipster48 06/06/13 - 05:22 am
9
1
Mason and Gifts

Mr. Mason's persona and arrogance say more than the quasi-legal acceptance of tickets and such.....unfortunately, it's business as usual!

just an opinion
2932
Points
just an opinion 06/06/13 - 05:41 am
10
1
He's been bought

He can't vote NO against Heery!

jmo
18513
Points
jmo 06/06/13 - 05:58 am
9
0
I really wonder.......

how Mason will vote on the Heery issue. lol

my.voice
5174
Points
my.voice 06/06/13 - 06:00 am
11
1
Mason isn't smart enough to

Mason isn't smart enough to be the next Charles Walker.......smart as in crafty.

ColCo
927
Points
ColCo 06/06/13 - 06:39 am
10
1
Start the tap dance music...

It appears as if it's not just the votes that fall along racial lines in Richmond County, it's the “Lawful campaign contributions”, “courtesy tickets or free admission extended to an elected official for an event as a courtesy or for ceremonial purposes”, “Lawful campaign contributions” and “community involvement initiatives” too. It's also touching that Commissioner Mason is so preoccupied with the funeral for his neighbors that he can't answer questions. With leaders like this how can Richmond County do anything but succeed?

GnipGnop
12744
Points
GnipGnop 06/06/13 - 06:57 am
8
1
This city is a circus

we see the clowns that run it!

Lori Davis
1006
Points
Lori Davis 06/06/13 - 07:13 am
13
1
Two Things

I have been to Alvin Mason's breakfasts and he ALWAYS said that he paid for it out of his own pocket. That disappoints me. Secondly, Heery never offered me a dime in my run for Mayor or District 1 Commission... That pretty much settles the issue in my mind about who can be bought and who can't.

...point to ponder
779
Points
...point to ponder 06/06/13 - 07:14 am
9
0
...no way...

Not fit fior elected office .

dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 06/06/13 - 07:17 am
10
1
Are you kidding me!
Unpublished

This is a double standard if there ever has been one! Alvin Mason jar is should be a reminder of the "good old boys" days. How is right to take gifts from vendors? I think the justice department needs to investigate our commissioners and the whole operations of the city including Fred Russell office.

justthefacts
25063
Points
justthefacts 06/06/13 - 07:54 am
6
1
Justice Dept??

They have their own issues to investigate. Gov't is totally corrupt from the President on down.

just an opinion
2932
Points
just an opinion 06/06/13 - 07:27 am
7
1
So Mason, did you say that ?

That you paid for the breakfast's out of your on pocket? Are you still to busy to comment? If you are elected, will you be to busy to comment on tough issues? We're waiting. Set the record straight pls.

soapy_725
44121
Points
soapy_725 06/06/13 - 07:36 am
1
0
The picture says volumes....
Unpublished

No doubt about. Change we can all believe in?

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 06/06/13 - 07:38 am
12
1
Deke?

Where is the mayor? Why has he not muttered a word about this?

What is Deke's view of the ethics code and all this?

MarinerMan
2107
Points
MarinerMan 06/06/13 - 07:51 am
1
0
@JMO
Unpublished

And you know where Charles Walker is right now?? Mason will be okay, as long as he doesn't decide to branch out from breakfasts, and move to scholarship "Football Games"...

GnipGnop
12744
Points
GnipGnop 06/06/13 - 07:52 am
8
1
At the beach?

Don't expect him to take a side...that's not his style...besides it's gay pride month. He might need to consult a lawyer before he says anything....

Little Lamb
49092
Points
Little Lamb 06/06/13 - 07:58 am
7
1
Alvin the Chipmunk

When food is plentiful, you notice the chipmunks have fat cheeks. Take a look at Mason’s.

Roundtree’s are pretty plump, too.

Little Lamb
49092
Points
Little Lamb 06/06/13 - 08:02 am
11
0
Ethics Exemption

So, the city's ethics ordinance exempts free admission to events for “ceremonial purposes.” How does going to a Braves game in Heery’s sky box fit that definition? You know the intent of the exemption was to go to events in Augusta to meet and greet your constituents and to allow the public access to their commissioners in social settings. Going off to Atlanta with fat cat consultants who have city contracts is not what the exemption had in mind.

csrareader
1288
Points
csrareader 06/06/13 - 08:03 am
10
1
The problem is Augusta voters

The problem is Augusta voters won't care. He's has the right ethnic background to pass muster.

SouthAugustan
137
Points
SouthAugustan 06/06/13 - 08:12 am
8
0
It's ok for the black

It's ok for the black commissioners to take "courtesy" tickets but last month the white commissioners were scolded for bidding/winning on county contracts, what's the difference?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 06/06/13 - 08:13 am
8
0
Procedure over Principal!

Thats how he rolls.

dichotomy
37496
Points
dichotomy 06/06/13 - 08:19 am
8
1
" “I don’t have to stop if I

" “I don’t have to stop if I don’t want to stop.”

And this is the attitude you are going to get from him if he gets elected mayor. He is arrogant and he likes the "perks", no matter how questionable they are. I don't care if the things he took are legal.....they should NOT be legal and it APPEARS unethical to take expensive gifts and donations from a company which you are voting to award a contract that involves $millions of dollars. It shows POOR JUDGEMENT on MASON'S part, and Johnson's part......AND anyone else on our commission that has been taking perks from contractors. And I would sure like to know the "gift" history of the GARBAGE CONTRACTORS and our commission and Mark Johnson.

And speaking of Mark Johnson and garbage. I watched the piece WJBF did last night where they said the "city" had looked at what the cost would be to continue twice a week service and that it would have been a $50 a year increase in our garbage bill. What THEY DID NOT SAY was that the $50 dollar increase had ZERO, NOTHING, NADA to do with keeping twice a week service. The $50 was allow the haulers to pay for Mark Johnson's new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) trucks and CNG service station. So now they have cut our service in half, which SHOULD BE COSTING US UNDER $200 a year, but they are charging us $310 a year and that gives them enough to allow the haulers to pay for their new mandated trucks PLUS SOME PROFIT TO BUILD THE MARK JOHNSON MEMORIAL SERVICE STATION AND GIVE THE "CITY" A LITTLE FOR THE GENERAL FUND.

All of our politicians and county employees are totally out of control with the taxpayers money. We are being raped and robbed while our big timing commissioners are laughing it up in a skybox at the football and baseball games in Atlanta and taking gifts and money from contractors who end up getting MORE and BIGGER contracts at the taxPAYER's expense. Come on AC, do a little digging on the gifts and "contributions" from the primary TRASH HAULERS who are benefitting from these sweetheart contracts.

sewerbabe
71
Points
sewerbabe 06/06/13 - 08:28 am
5
0
Same thing is happening in Columbia County.

Shady business deals, contract bids etc. run amok in both counties. In Columbia County all you have to do is look at the names of commissioners (and others in CC decision making roles), largest landowners, contractors etc. trace the name you'll find it goes back to one of them. Zoning law changes in CC are always subject to scrutiny. Problem is, there is no one in the press who'll touch it. Fair is fair right? Nope not anywhere in politics. Crooked, crooked.

ragingbull
945
Points
ragingbull 06/06/13 - 08:32 am
4
2
"I don’t have to stop if I

"I don’t have to stop if I don’t want to stop.” That is the same thing the john told the prostitute, and that is the same thing Mason is doing to Richmond County

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