Deputy Administrator Tameka Allen is now officially in charge of Augusta’s government.
The Keysville native, a city employee since 1992, was named unanimously Tuesday to the top position of interim city administrator until a replacement for Fred Russell, whom the commission voted to fire last month, is found.
“I can’t think of anybody else that I would put in other than Tameka Allen,” said Commissioner Bill Fennoy. “To put anybody else in that job would be a disservice to the city.”
After firing Russell without a succession plan, the commission initially named Mayor Deke Copenhaver or Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson to act as administrator in Allen’s absence but declined to promote Allen to interim administrator.
Tuesday, after a lengthy executive session to discuss the move and other matters, the commission voted 9-0, with Commissioner Donnie Smith absent, to name Allen as interim administrator for the four to six months until Russell’s replacement is found.
Commissioner Bill Lockett, who advocated for Allen to assume the role since Russell was terminated, said his mind hadn’t changed about her qualifications. Plus, she is not interested in holding the administrator position permanently, Lockett said.
The motion from Commissioner Alvin Mason also set in motion a process of finding interim appointees to hold Allen’s two positions. She has served as city Information Technology director since 2001 and as a deputy administrator since 2004. The city’s second deputy administrator, Bill Shanahan, resigned in August to take another job.
Allen, 44, graduated from Savannah State University and earned a master’s degree in business administration from Augusta State University in 2005, according to her personnel file. She was in meetings late Tuesday and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Johnson, Copenhaver and Allen were also tasked with recommending candidates for interim IT director and interim deputy administrator by the next commission meeting.
After the vote Commissioner Marion Williams posed an unusual request. Williams said he wanted copies of the hard drives from Russell’s computer, to see what was on them. Williams and former Commissioner Calvin Holland made the same request in 2007 after a city law department employee was found to be conducting private business on her city PC, but the commission never gave them access to Russell’s files.
Also Tuesday, the commission voted 7-2, with Lockett and Fennoy opposed, to approve a new, two-year contract with Gold Cross EMS, the city’s ambulance provider since 2006. The city had been on a week-to-week contract with the Martinez-based firm since Dec. 31 after failing to reach an agreement before the new year.
The new contract calls for creation of a Emergency Medical Service Advisory Board made up of the administrator, a Gold Cross designee and its medical director, the city’s EMS medical director and a Richmond County Sheriff’s Office designee to review quarterly reports on the service’s performance.
Gold Cross handled some 36,000 EMS calls for Augusta last year, CEO Vince Brogdon said.
Noticeably absent from the contract is Augusta’s fire chief, who served as contract administrator under the older agreements. Fire Chief Chris James raised questions about the old contract that led to the commission seeking competitive EMS bids, but later reversed course and decided to renegotiate with the company.
Another item elicited the loud bang of Copenhaver’s gavel when Johnson loudly questioned Williams’ request to see all city staff who live outside Richmond County. Williams had previously sought the names of department heads who don’t live in Augusta-Richmond, although General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie said there is no legal way to compel them to do so.
“I have a right to know how much money is going out of this county,” Williams said.
According to an August personnel report obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, city employees are spread far and wide, from Charleston to Conyers. Some 761 of the city’s then-2,488 staff members lived outside Augusta-Richmond County. The largest number from outside Augusta were 191 who had Martinez addresses.
The commission also after much discussion approved a short tentative timeline for developing a new special purpose, local option sales tax to present to voters May 20.
Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said the early date was needed to allow a second referendum to be held if the SPLOST fails the first time.
Cities must wait a year before holding a second SPLOST referendum, and the next opportunity would fall in November of 2016, Schroer said.