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Augusta Commission calls off search for administrator after failure to reach consensus on finalists

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 5:44 PM
Last updated Thursday, July 24, 2014 1:00 PM
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Augusta government remains under the direction of two interim city administrators after commission members failed to agree to support either of two finalists for the job named by Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

After a nationwide search conducted by the Mercer Group, commissioners voted 7-1 Wednesday on a motion from Donnie Smith to take no action and discontinue the search after nearly two hours of discussion behind closed doors. Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, who lost a Tuesday runoff bid for state Senate, and Joe Jackson were not present for the vote.

The three finalists were Janice Allen Jackson, the former city manager in Albany, Ga., and a general manager in Mecklenburg County, N.C.; Steve Layson, the former chief administrative officer for Bibb County, Ga.; and Oscar Rodriguez, the former town manager in Taos, N.M.

The vote likely pushes the decision to next year, when Mayor-elect Hardie Davis and three new commissioners take office. The unsuccessful search has cost taxpayers $15,000, plus up to $4,000 in expenses.

Wayne Guilfoyle was the only member to vote against stopping the search.

“It bothers me that we go through the process, hire a headhunter, each of us gives the requirements of an administrator we want and then they say, ‘No, let’s wait until the end of the year,’ ” said Guilfoyle, who supported Rodriguez.

Several commissioners said they believed Copen­haver had garnered sufficient support ahead of the meeting for his choice, Rodriguez, and were surprised at the disagreement behind closed doors.

Educated at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rodriguez has a 25-year career in local government, including positions in Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C., and with the International City-County Management Association.

“We thought we had a consensus today,” Commissioner Mary Davis said. “The mayor doesn’t just call a meeting to call a meeting.”

MARY DAVIS AND Copen­haver blamed the failed search in part on Augusta’s system of government, a 10-member strong commission with a weak mayor and administrator, and said the system and the failed search likely will discourage applicants.

“I have said for a long time that we should use the form of government that Columbus (Ga.) has, where the administrator and the attorney are underneath the mayor’s office. Had that been the case today, we would have an administrator. But they couldn’t get to consensus,” Copenhaver said. “We had three good candidates.”

Commissioners said Rod­riguez had five votes behind closed doors, one short of the six needed for approval, while Jackson had four. Layson was eliminated because he lacked a master’s degree and experience with a government the size of Augusta’s, according to Commissioner Bill Lockett.

REACHED BY PHONE, Rod­riguez said he regretted the decision but understood it.

He disagreed that Au­gusta’s form of government was faulty or the cause of the failed search.

“I have worked with places that are bigger than that,” he said. “Whatever number that you have is for there to be consensus on, that’s what the county manager or city administrator is supposed to do.”

Rodriguez said if he hasn’t found a new position by next year, he would consider reapplying.

Lockett called the closed-door discussion “amicable” but wished the commission had been more involved in the search and vetting of candidates.

He said he had questioned using the Mercer Group
after the résumé packets prepared by the firm were missing pages.

“If they could miss that, my question is, did they miss anything in the course of their investigation of the applicants?” he said.

Mercer’s John Maxwell provided the missing pages Friday.

LOCKETT SAID HE didn’t believe the failed search or form of government would discourage applicants, and believed the government remained steady under the two interim administrators.

“The word is out there that nobody wants to come to Augusta, I don’t buy that one bit,” he said. “We’ve got the Cyber Command coming, the expansion of Georgia Regents University.”

Commissioner Alvin Ma­son called the action “unfortunate” but one that allowed those who will be in office next year to take the lead.

“Perhaps this new commission, the new mayor-elect will get an opportunity to weigh in and be a part,” Mason said.

Hardie Davis maintained he had no involvement in the search process, although he prefers the decision wait until he takes office.

“If it was my choice, I would ask them to do that and I think I’ve shared that with everybody,” Davis said. But, “I have made it my business to stay out of that process.”

Comments (42) Add comment
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Sonny Pittman
107
Points
Sonny Pittman 07/23/14 - 05:55 pm
3
7
Search for a new administrator

Excellent Decision! Let Mayor-elect Davis and the present and incoming commissioners make the decision next year.

Butterman
3682
Points
Butterman 07/23/14 - 05:56 pm
3
1
What's up Wayne?
Unpublished

Why are you against holding off till the new mayor and commission are in office to make this decision, one which Augusta may have to live with for many years? Why let a lame duck mayor push his choice through? Augusta has been without a permanent admin for 7 months now and the sky has not fallen in.. surely it can make it through 5 or 6 more months and let the new leadership make have the say. When the mayor calls these special meetings to ram something through in a rush.. commissioners should be very skeptical and say No.

maandpa
456
Points
maandpa 07/23/14 - 05:56 pm
23
1
Too Bad For Applicants

Too bad for the applicants who have been jerked around by a group who does not know what they want....

Pops
10384
Points
Pops 07/23/14 - 06:07 pm
19
0
It just goes to show

just how ignorant and shortsighted these "leaders" really are......don't you think that this decision to delay could have been made WEEKS ago....it's been out there for quite awhile that there are going to be new officials taking office in January.....they really don't get it........

gill
55
Points
gill 07/23/14 - 06:10 pm
18
0
$$$$

How much did this cost the city?

Butterman
3682
Points
Butterman 07/23/14 - 06:19 pm
6
8
Tha Mayor
Unpublished

was the one rushing this decision and spending money to get applicants now instead of holding off and letting the new mayor and commission make the decision. If you want to blame someone, blame Deke.. He is desperate to see to it that his handpicked administrator is installed. It is the only thing he can leave to his puppet masters.. an administrator they can control. Augusta has been doing fine so far without a permanent administrator.. it can survive another 5 months.

GnipGnop
12454
Points
GnipGnop 07/23/14 - 06:22 pm
13
5
Yeah smells fishy to me

First, he tries to cram the SPLOST down the voters throats & now his own hand picked city administrator...goodbye Deke you won't be missed!

Little Lamb
46895
Points
Little Lamb 07/23/14 - 06:27 pm
11
4
Inept

Yesterday's Susan McCord story said that this special meeting was called by Mayor Copenhaver. That is just another example of his ineptness as a leader. He is a second-term lame-duck mayor who has not yet learned that you don't call a special meeting to approve a single item in which you do not have your six votes already lined up.

For goodness sake, if you don't know who will vote for your choice, you don't call a special meeting! You wait until a regular meeting and let someone else step out there on the gangplank.

soitgoes
900
Points
soitgoes 07/23/14 - 06:34 pm
17
2
I fault the entire commission

Three well-qualified candidates were identified through a legitimate process and our Commission cannot make a decision??!!! This is why Columbia County and North Augusta are leaving Augusta in the dust. More ineptness, but so it goes...

Butterman
3682
Points
Butterman 07/23/14 - 07:05 pm
7
5
It takes 6 votes
Unpublished

to hire an administrator. The mayor did not have those 6 votes yet he called this special farce of a meeting anyway. It's more political theater by the lame duck mayor

dichotomy
34343
Points
dichotomy 07/23/14 - 08:04 pm
18
2
"Too bad for the applicants

"Too bad for the applicants who have been jerked around by a group who does not know what they want...."

Jerked around by jerks....imagine that. But don't kid yourself that they don't know what they want.

My guess is.....and yes Butterman, it IS a guess...a gut feeling...so I COULD be wrong.

My guess is that the black commissioners have already decided that Tameka will get the job. They probably told her not to apply this time since they had already planned this "we don't like any of Deke's" and they knew that there would not be 6 votes for any of them. With Tameka "not applying" there would be no indication of the total 100% black Augusta government takeover that might have impacted the District 6 runoff elections. In January they can slap her right in there permanently and there will not even be any discussion . 100% takeover complete....mayor...commission....sheriff.....administrator.....planning & zoning....housing....engineering....school superintendent.....and I am sure there are others that I have missed.....but basically total control of all of our "we can tax and FEE you" departments. About the only white department head we have left in a "tax and FEE" position is Mark Johnson the white garbage man and I am sure there is some type of reverse-anti-symbology that allows him to keep that position.

I could be wrong...but if I am....I am CERTAIN they will find another black candidate for administrator that they WILL agree on to complete the takeover. Either way, whites, Hispanic, and Orientals need not apply and the "let's get some mo' revenoo" takeover will be complete.

I always wanted to see Detroit and I may get to yet.

grinder48
2005
Points
grinder48 07/23/14 - 08:13 pm
0
0
Good
Unpublished

I though every one of them had at least one problem that would have caused me to cull each.

bright idea
851
Points
bright idea 07/23/14 - 09:13 pm
3
2
I can see

this job never being permanently filled.

shelby547
272
Points
shelby547 07/23/14 - 09:22 pm
14
0
"My guess is that the black commissioners have already decided"

I've been saying for weeks that the job was already Tamekas. There was no way the commissioners were ever going to vote a Deke pick in.

corgimom
33994
Points
corgimom 07/23/14 - 09:49 pm
4
8
Dichotomy, my thoughts are if

Dichotomy, my thoughts are if Renaldo Riviera and a black woman applied for the job as administrator, Deke would go with Renaldo.

There is no way that Deke and the Boardmans would go for a black woman in charge, especially with a black mayor and now a majority black commission.

triscuit
3153
Points
triscuit 07/23/14 - 09:54 pm
11
1
It will be a black person,

It will be a black person, female or not, Tameka or another. But that's fine. Let the blackshave control of RC. The "white" leadership, if we have to sink to that terminology, have done a poor job. With blacks in control maybe something might get done. If not, no more pointing fingers at the whites.

Dixieman
15941
Points
Dixieman 07/23/14 - 09:59 pm
14
3
I suggest:

Anyone who would apply for a job requiring them to report to this bunch of clowns would fail a sanity test and clearly would be categorized as masochistic.

Fiat_Lux
15901
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/23/14 - 10:08 pm
12
0
my.voice
4914
Points
my.voice 07/23/14 - 10:31 pm
6
1
What Dixieman said!

What Dixieman said!

corgimom
33994
Points
corgimom 07/23/14 - 11:34 pm
1
5
Dichotomy, isn't the fire

Dichotomy, isn't the fire chief white? I'm not sure.

Although you never know, Augusta could always get Ronnie Few back.

dichotomy
34343
Points
dichotomy 07/23/14 - 11:49 pm
8
0
corgimom...."Dichotomy, isn't

corgimom...."Dichotomy, isn't the fire chief white? I'm not sure. "

Chief James is black. Forgot him and I forgot Geri Sams in Procurement. 100% takeover complete except for the garbage man.

dichotomy
34343
Points
dichotomy 07/23/14 - 11:55 pm
7
0
The 40% whites that are left

The 40% whites that are left right now are just here to provide "mo' revenoo".

If they plan on leaving, now would be a good time to go.

nocnoc.....good move..perfect timing.

flipa1
2161
Points
flipa1 07/24/14 - 12:53 am
5
1
Tameka impressed me by seeing

Tameka impressed me by seeing right through the Port Authority/Riverkreeper parade of ineptness. Money has been approved for new docks but that would make the current marina operator who got the money approved in 2008 look GOOD. So an eco-extortionist has blocked them and dragged her feet in a conspiracy to steal the marina contract which is why nothing gets fixed including the dam. All to starve out and make the marina's look bad and go broke. The marina sends their rent in and it disappears, imagine that. Meanwhile our riverfront looked like a junkyard to Rowing Clubs, Drag Boat Racers, and every other visitor, since 2008. The environmentalist even Judas goated the city into a multimillion dollar violation of over 100 laws and contractual obligations, and have put it in writing that they can leave the city and the county taxpayers holding the tab for ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$), This is whites doing this so why not let blacks run things?. They were saying they want to raise taxes by 2 mill to “support” the environmentalist. Tameka saw right through it and showed tremendous maturity by moving things along as the timekeeper. Even when a terrible slander screeched out of the drama queen environmentalist everyone including Tameka agreed it was a Bald Faced Lie.. She said "I don't believe it". People like Tameka are who we need no matter WHAT color they come in. If they’re good, they’re good, who cares their color?

Whateverusay
6
Points
Whateverusay 07/24/14 - 12:45 am
4
4
Dichotomy needs to share all the facts

Augusta currently has white department directors for Utilities, Finance, Recreation & Solid Waste. Unfortunately, Augusta is never going to move forward if everyone is concerned with the color of ones skin instead of the qualifications one brings to the table. History shows there were a number of whites, for many years, in most of the top positions without any qualifications and no progress was made. Why should it be such a problem when there are a majority of blacks in the lead positions??????

In regards to Ms. Allen, after all they put her through for the Interim position, I applaud her for continuing to work with them. I do not blame her for not applying for the position and putting herself through the scrutiny.

So stop continuing to feed into the reputation Augusta is unfortunately known for, and do your part to make sure the right people are running the government for progress! Rally with your Commissioner and make sure they are supporting the right thing and are only concerned about one color and that is green!!!!!

rebellious
21293
Points
rebellious 07/24/14 - 02:16 am
10
0
I suspect

Corey took a dive. I suspect he was the 6th vote and bowed out or "no-showed". Wait for a new administration? Of what, greenhorns who don't know what floor the commission meets on?

I don't think Tameka was even in consideration. My info says she doesn't want it (smart lady) and further my interaction with her tells me she has no tolerance for politics. She is more factual decision based, and we all know there is little room for that in Augusta.

The suspension puzzles me. Why just toss in the towel on selection? Too many lame ducks to fight for what is right for the City? Hats off to Guilfoyle for calling BS on that kick of the can down the road. Majority said "The buck stops over there".

I think a contingency favored Jackson cause she is black, a woman, and hailed from Augusta. All wrong reasons for selecting an administrator.

God save our city from ourselves. Ready, Fire, Aim continues.

Call me "Disappointed in South Augusta"

Riverman1
86846
Points
Riverman1 07/24/14 - 04:39 am
8
1
The Obvious

Half the commissioners want the next mayor and commission to choose the administrator. Do I have to say the obvious about what changes with the next group? If we are to avoid the open hostility as existed between the commission and the last administrator, it's probably best to wait and let them choose who THEY want.

jwilliams
960
Points
jwilliams 07/24/14 - 06:17 am
6
0
I agree with Rebellious.

I agree with Rebellious. After all of the financial support given to the “Great One” by Deke and his crew, they found out what 61% of ARC citizens already knew; Johnson can’t be trusted. He will say one thing and do another.

Dixieman
15941
Points
Dixieman 07/24/14 - 07:15 am
10
0
Diagnosis:

ARC Commission: Dysfunctional family with narcissistic tendencies and paranoid overtones. Prognosis: Hopeless.

bullbatt
28
Points
bullbatt 07/24/14 - 06:34 am
0
0
administrator
Unpublished

Austin will love this decision, it will give him 6 more months to have Fred Russell to blame any failings of the city.

nocnoc
44828
Points
nocnoc 07/24/14 - 06:54 am
4
0
Agree and Disagree

I see where Wayne is Headed with this and I agree on many of his points. Like, since the vote now won't happen until next year it may cause some rippling effects and issues. I know he apologized to the 3 candidates that were interviewed, because he is seeing the bigger picture.

But as readers and still or founding residents, at the same time we all agree finding the right City Administrator is of the utmost importance.

But I also understand the comments about allowing the NEW ARC Commissioners and the NEW Mayor should be the ones picking who they will use to rebuild and instill some fiscal sense into ARC with.

I am still on record that ARC should not be limited to the OUTGOING Spend and Tax Mayor Deke's picks.

Plus the ARC Charter needs to be adjusted to reduce the LAME DUCK time in office for ousted politicians, now that ARC has MAY elections instead of NOVEMBER elections. Six (6) Months is too much time for a LAME DUCKS to Meddle in, or obligate the next administration.

BTW:
Whoppie!
the unsuccessful search has cost taxpayers around $20K.

Remember we have already seen how much the wrong City Administrator can & still is costing ARC Taxpayers.

MILLIONS in new taxes for useless political projects with cost overruns

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