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Evaluations to get top city staff "on same page" with commission

Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 7:05 PM
Last updated Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 10:34 AM
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Augusta commissioners are making good on a promise to hold the city administrator more accountable through an evaluation process now under development.

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Lena Bonner
Lena Bonner

Fred Russell, a former Virginia deputy police chief, hasn’t been formally evaluated since he was named interim city administrator in 2004, at the resignation of former administrator George Kolb.

After several on the commission took issue with Russell not keeping them informed about key city business – such as a recent proposal to declare downtown Augusta a “slum” to borrow money at lower rates – an effort pushed by commissioners Donnie Smith and Mary Davis to hold Russell accountable got under way.

On Wednesday, eight commissioners attended a work session where Tanika Bryant, the city’s Human Resources director of six months, updated them on numerous ongoing initiatives in her department, including how commissioners can develop performance goals and criteria and use them to rate the performance of “direct reports.”

Only three city employees report directly to the commission: the administrator, the city’s general counsel and the city clerk. The remainder of city staff, including non-elected department heads, report directly to Russell, although six commission votes can fire any of them.

Commissioner Bill Lockett, a former federal investigator who has rallied for years to implement formal human resources processes, said he was “proud” of the attendance at Wednesday’s work session.

Lockett and Commissioner Alvin Mason led an effort two years ago to fire Russell for secretly awarding raises to several dozen employees whose job duties had expanded under a restructuring of city government, but only four commissioners voted to fire him.

Russell and General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie attended the session Wednesday, while city clerk Lena Bonner is on leave due to illness.

“Once a year is nowhere near enough for me to get the feedback I need to be successful,” Russell offered.

“The goal is to put in place processes that allow us to handle human resources situations… with direct reports that go by procedure, rather than emotion,” noted Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

Two other direct reports specified in the city charter, the Equal Employment Opportunity director and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise director, are vacant, MacKenzie said.

Davis said after the meeting she was pleased with Bryant’s extensive effort and progress made at the session.

“I’m excited that we’re going to establish evaluations for direct reports,” Davis said, “to keep everybody on the same page.”

Davis said the process will “make sure our direct reports know what to expect from us… and what we expect as well.”

Commissioner Bill Fennoy, who took office this year, said he looked forward to completing the evaluation process, but wouldn’t look backward in time to do it.

“All I can do is look at their performance as I’ve seen it since I’ve been on the commission, and rate them accordingly,” Fennoy said.


Fred Russell

City Administrator

Hire date: Jan. 7, 2002

Salary: $136,859

Andrew MacKenzie

General Counsel

Hire Date: June 6, 2007

Salary: $136,859

Lena Bonner

Clerk of Commission

Hire Date: Jan. 23, 1973

Salary: $81,259

Comments (9) Add comment
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GnipGnop 10/16/13 - 10:33 pm
9 years with no evaluation?

This is the reason city employees get big packages when they can't do their job. Maybe you should hire a consultant to tell you how to implement the evaluations?

thauch12 10/17/13 - 02:44 am
What a truly preposterous

What a truly preposterous salary for a man who does absolutely nothing useful...just another waste of my taxpayer dollars.

Riverman1 10/17/13 - 04:54 am
Silver Threads and Golden Parachutes

While they're in the mood to begin procedures for evaluating Russell, they should begin to work to do away with his golden parachute that he snuck in the deck.

seenitB4 10/17/13 - 07:29 am
No more

We paid taxes in Richmond county for a long time but I'm happy to say NOT NOW....just family & friends still paying....& paying--paying.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 10/17/13 - 07:46 am
Golden Parachute

RM is correct. It would take merely six commission votes to strike Russell's (and MacKenzie's) golden parachute from the Operation and Policy manual that was written a couple of years ago by MacKenzie and Russell and then approved by Commission.

raul 10/17/13 - 12:34 pm
So Fred hasn't been evaluated

So Fred hasn't been evaluated in 9 years. I wonder if he received any performance based monetary awards during that period? If so, based on what?

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 10/17/13 - 02:38 pm

From the story:

“Once a year is nowhere near enough for me to get the feedback I need to be successful,” Russell offered.

He has been completely silent about not being evaluated in nine years, and then Fred (What, me worry?) Russell whines that a once-a-year evaluation will not be enough!

Mr. Russell, it is time for you to start worrying.

bubbasauce 10/17/13 - 09:37 pm
And what about Lena Bonners

And what about Lena Bonners $81,000 salary. Unbelievable. Some one please explain how a Clerk of Commissioner deserves that kind of money? I gonna go get me one of dem govment jobs!

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