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Commissioners fill up often on taxpayer's dime

Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 8:39 PM
Last updated Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 8:44 PM
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson was erroneously included in a list of Augusta Commission members attending a National League of Cities conference in Seattle in November. Johnson did not attend the conference.

Augusta taxpayers have paid more than $6,700 for gasoline for four city commissioners’ private vehicles this year, records show.

Super District 9 Commissioner Marion Williams defended burning the most fuel in 11 months – 641.9 gallons at a total cost of $2,173 – as the cost of providing good constituent service. Other commissioners using city gas cards are Grady Smith, Corey Johnson and Bill Fennoy.

“I don’t have an office; I don’t have a staff. They give us a little gas allotment. I think it’s more than fair; I think it’s justified,” Williams said, en route Wednesday he said to examine a pothole that damaged a voter’s vehicle.

Under a policy written in 1965, commissioners are allotted 125 gallons of gas each month. Since 1998, when the city shut down its fueling stations, commissioners and other city employees have used gas cards. They now have Wright Express cards they can use only for fuel at almost any commercial gas station, city Fleet Manager Ron Crowden said.

Usage is down since 2008, when former commissioners Joe Bowles and Jerry Brigham pushed to limit the monthly allotment to 50 gallons. The effort failed. Back then, seven commissioners used gas cards. Now, only four do.

Williams said the amount he’s purchased – for his 1998 Lexus, his diesel-powered truck or occasionally, his Harley Davidson motorcycle – was miniscule “compared to the stuff we throw away; the things we do so wrong,” while commissioners who don’t use the cards “probably have got plenty of money and don’t need it.”

Based on getting at least 20 miles per gallon, Williams bought enough fuel this year to drive twice to Seattle and back, where he, Fennoy and two other commissioners flew last month for a National League of Cities conference.

“Suppose you had a commissioner that couldn’t get around?” he asked. Super District 9 is the city’s second-largest, at 81 square miles. “I’m out doing what the taxpayers elected me to do.”

Using the second-most fuel is Super District 10 Commissioner Grady Smith, who bought some 460.2 gallons of mostly premium gasoline for $1,785.26. His usage is down from 2012, when Smith bought 780 gallons in 12 months for $2,976.42.

Super District 10 is the city’s largest, at 248 square miles, although 88 of those miles are inside Fort Gordon.

Next is Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, a candidate for state Senate whose District 2 is the city’s smallest, at 11 square miles. Johnson spent $1,443.83 on 483.3 gallons of fuel, records showed.

Smith and Johnson on occasion gassed up during the same dates they were scheduled to attend state training and conferences for which all commissioners are paid mileage.

Commissioners who don’t use the cards said they don’t need them. One of them is Bill Lockett, shown in a recent Augusta Chronicle report to go to training seminars more than his colleagues.

“I’m not in this for the money. If I was, I wouldn’t have completed my first six months,” Lockett said. “I use so much of my own money to be a commissioner. When I go out to schools and talk to young people, I tell them... ‘find a career you’d do even if you don’t get paid for it.’”

Williams and Lockett, who are both retired, acknowledged they spend nearly all their time doing commission work. Lockett said it was his primary occupation.

Commissioner Donnie Smith, no relation to Grady Smith, said it was unnecessary to use the card.

“My district is 13 square miles and I live right dead in the center of it,” Smith said. “When I go out checking on sewer lines and stormwater problems and road problems, it doesn’t cost me a gallon of gas to do that. If I had one of those districts that’s big, I might feel differently about it.”

By the numbers

Commissioner Marion Williams

Super District 9 - 81 square miles

641.9 gallons

57 purchases

$2,173.33

Commissioner Grady Smith

Super District 10 - 248 square miles

460.2 gallons

25 purchases

$1,785.26

Commissioner Corey Johnson

District 2 - 11 square miles

483.3 gallons

26 purchases

$1,443.83

Commissioner Bill Fennoy

District 1 - 38 square miles

386.5 gallons

31 purchases

$1,304.11

Source: Augusta Fleet Management fuel usage reports

Comments (31) Add comment
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just an opinion
2351
Points
just an opinion 12/18/13 - 10:24 pm
15
1
Hey Marion ...

"You got plenty of money to". Don't you? You sold your $20,000 run down Church building to the County for $200,000 didn't you? Not bad for a preacher.

dichotomy
30332
Points
dichotomy 12/19/13 - 12:08 am
16
1
Marion never met a taxpayer

Marion never met a taxpayer dollar he couldn't spend.

jwilliams
722
Points
jwilliams 12/19/13 - 12:33 am
4
3
Taken from this article,

Taken from this article, “Based on getting at least 20 miles per gallon, Williams bought enough fuel this year to drive twice to Seattle and back, where he, Fennoy, Johnson and two other commissioners flew last month for a National League of Cities conference.” Sorry Susan, although Corey “THE GREAT ONE” Johnson has done a lot of “QUESTIONABLE” things, we can’t blame him for this one because he did not go on the Seattle trip. Check it out.

deestafford
23404
Points
deestafford 12/19/13 - 01:09 am
11
1
But y'all don't understand...

But y'all don't understand. You see I'm entitled. I can take what I can take ...legal and semi-legal.

Just My Opinion
5248
Points
Just My Opinion 12/19/13 - 05:46 am
5
2
Isn't this one of those

Isn't this one of those articles that the AC staff takes out every year, dust off, and update the names/dollars?

Riverman1
78954
Points
Riverman1 12/19/13 - 07:09 am
4
1
Columbia County?

Does Columbia County pay for gas the Commissioners use?

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 12/19/13 - 07:31 am
0
0
I didn't realize it was
Unpublished

I didn't realize it was commissioner's jobs to actually go out and check out potholes... don't they pay road crews for that?

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7042
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 12/19/13 - 07:35 am
14
1
Mileage and Gas!!!

Let's see, they fill up on the county to go to a seminar in Atlanta which the round trip takes an average of 10 gallons. Then they also get 55 cents a mile for the trip so that's $120.00 on top of the $60 to $80 dollar fillup. Can you say double dipping? I say, make them keep and submit a log each month of gas purchased with the county card, Miles driven on county business for each trip and the purpose of the trip. Complete verifiable details of the trip and purpose. I can understand gas for one vehicle but when Marion Williams is filling up every vehicle he owns on the county nickel, something smells like a rotten fish market, or a snack bar for a drag strip!!!

Pops
6648
Points
Pops 12/19/13 - 07:37 am
9
1
Giving out fuel cards

probably isn't the best idea. If a person wanted to, they could use it to fill up their wives' and girlfriend's cars or anyone else they choose. Not saying that these gentlemen are capable of misuse of the cards, of course....

fatboyhog
1800
Points
fatboyhog 12/19/13 - 07:53 am
10
1
A question for Marion

"en route Wednesday he said to examine a pothole that damaged a voter’s vehicle." Doesn't the county have a Risk Management department and a Public Works department? Do they have cameras? Supervisors? Do you trust them to do their job or not? Seems to me that you have an awful lot of experience when it comes to doing jobs for your constituents. Maybe you should fire everybody and run the county all by yourself.

owensjef3
5635
Points
owensjef3 12/19/13 - 08:11 am
2
2
Mane the pothole has been an
Unpublished

Mane the pothole has been an issue for a while.

peace4784
111
Points
peace4784 12/19/13 - 08:17 am
0
0
City trough attracts hogs.
Unpublished

City trough attracts hogs. Why are you surprised? They are uncivil servants who serve themselves.

Riverman1
78954
Points
Riverman1 12/19/13 - 08:21 am
8
1
I'd ask those 4 if they ever

I'd ask those 4 if they ever spend a dime for gas other than what the county pays for. I think the answer would be no.

Willow Bailey
20579
Points
Willow Bailey 12/19/13 - 09:10 am
9
2
It's interesting when it

It's interesting when it comes to abuse of power, the same names show up.

nocnoc
38168
Points
nocnoc 12/19/13 - 09:20 am
4
2
Could the AC list all the Commissioners

I am interested in knowing how each used their Gas cards?

NOW IMAGINE,
if the commissioners used Travel logs and were reimbursed 30cents a mile (private vehicle) instead of a gas card?

It would also let us know Who, What , When, Where and Why the Commissioner traveled for his official duties.

BTW:
Besides shouldn't the commissioners be allotted gas by the official business mile?

Their duties require them to travel their districts areas and evaluate district issues and problems and then check back to see the issues has been corrected?

Super Districts naturally will use more Gas on official business.

I say this in defense of the job duties, not the commissioners.
The taxpayers have a right to know IF their $$$ is being spend properly & NOT being used to gas up HOG for a Joy ride on our $,$$$.

jwilliams
722
Points
jwilliams 12/19/13 - 09:30 am
4
2
I would like to ask a

I would like to ask a question just for informational purposes only, “Are officers within the Georgia state patrol assigned a vehicle to drive to and from work, and if so are they given a fuel card?”

dichotomy
30332
Points
dichotomy 12/19/13 - 10:36 am
2
1
Did anyone have to read the

Did anyone have to read the article to know who was at the top of the list? I didn't.

raul
4074
Points
raul 12/19/13 - 10:41 am
4
1
Are the commissioners

Are the commissioners required to maintain travel logs, that would state date, mileage, purpose of official business? If not, why not? Seems they would want to do this to protect themselves from folks questioning their integrity.

Little Lamb
43801
Points
Little Lamb 12/19/13 - 10:45 am
4
1
Thumbs UP

Raul is spot on. When you use gas cards provided by your employer, you need to specify where you go on official business.

You know that with Williams filling up his Lexus, his diesel truck, and his motorcycle!, that he is using city gas some of the time for his personal business, not city business.

But, then again, no one expects anything to come out of Ms. McCord's exposé.

Little Lamb
43801
Points
Little Lamb 12/19/13 - 10:48 am
3
1
Reimbursement

It is interesting how Ms. McCord reports that some filled up before they went on an official training trip and then were also reimbursed mileage for the same trip.

Is that double dipping or what?

itsanotherday1
39988
Points
itsanotherday1 12/19/13 - 10:59 am
6
1
Yes, Noc

Business use of POV is typically reimbursed at the IRS set rate, which is 56.5 cents/mile this year. That is what they should get, no more, no less.

The IRS would probably be interested in this little extra, untaxed income game they have going.

edit: Mileage logs ARE REQUIRED, else it is considered income. Maybe an ARC taxpayer should file a complaint with the IRS.

Riverman1
78954
Points
Riverman1 12/19/13 - 10:58 am
2
1
JWilliams, good one. :)

JWilliams, good one. :)

itsanotherday1
39988
Points
itsanotherday1 12/19/13 - 11:01 am
2
1
GSP are at work when they get

GSP are at work when they get in the car.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7042
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 12/19/13 - 11:10 am
4
1
Are officers within the Georgia state patrol assigned a vehicle

Yes they are, the patrol cars they drive are assigned to them. This allows for a longer vehicle life, it also allows for them to be on call 24/7/365. It also means that anything they encounter while traveling in said vehicle they have work. These Troopers are on salary and so do this on their own time. Often they are called out in the middle of the night for manhunts, raids and serious vehicle accidents and fatalities. All of their mileage has to be accounted for and their vehicles may not be used for personal business or they may not be employed for very long. I know this how? I have several friends that work for GSP and Ga DNR and they've all told me the same thing.

Sweet son
9646
Points
Sweet son 12/19/13 - 12:14 pm
1
2
Donnie Smith has a State car and it is unmarked.

I believe it is a silver Dodge Charger. Would be interesting to see if that vehicle is in the parking lot at the Marble Palace during Commission meetings. I hope not.

itsanotherday1
39988
Points
itsanotherday1 12/19/13 - 12:28 pm
2
1
Sweet son; it would depend on

Sweet son; it would depend on whether Mr. Smith is "on duty" or not. If he is responsible 24/7 to answer the call, then anywhere he goes locally is legit.

Riverman1
78954
Points
Riverman1 12/19/13 - 12:50 pm
4
2
ColdBeer did say the GSP

ColdBeer did say the GSP can't use state cars for personal business. If he's right Smith shouldn't be using it to go to Commission meetings.

debbiep38
374
Points
debbiep38 12/19/13 - 02:16 pm
0
0
Ah the Great Society.
Unpublished

Eh, "Reverend" Williams?

itsanotherday1
39988
Points
itsanotherday1 12/19/13 - 04:57 pm
2
1
I disagree River, IF he is

I disagree River, IF he is answerable to calls. What do you want him to do if called out for a manhunt? Get in his POV and drive all the home to get his official vehicle? That makes no sense for first responders subject to get called in an emergency.

Now.. If he is just an 8-5 guy, I agree.

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