Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Rap sheet no barrier to job with city

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This week, we're going to talk about criminal records and how you can get a job with the city of Augusta if you have a long one.

All you need is a state or local elected official or department director as your sponsor. Then the folks in the Marble Palace and the department where you'll soon be happily employed go blind and can't see a rap sheet -- even if it's three pages long -- so they sign the forms, after which they lose their memories.

There's no doubt in my mind that city meter reader Troy Curry -- who was arrested a week ago with police saying they caught him selling crack cocaine from his Augusta Utilities truck -- had someone greasing the skids for him.

He went through the city's hiring process twice: the first time when he applied for and got a laborer's job in 2006, the second when he applied for the meter reader's job.

It was all right there in his file -- on second thought, it might have been hidden away in a drawer by someone turning a blind eye. Anyway, it was all there somewhere: the rap sheet detailing more than 20 arrests and 11 convictions from 1986 to 2005 for theft, forgery, cocaine possession with intent to distribute, and so forth.

Not surprisingly, the city doesn't have a written policy on hiring people with criminal records, which is most convenient when they hire a career criminal and he relapses, as some parolees in a city program did a few years ago.

In 2006, the city was putting probationers to work at recreation centers throughout Richmond County until one of the ex-cons got arrested for leaving a known drug house on Greene Street. About the same time, another parolee working at the Aquatics Center forced a teenage girl into a broom closet and groped her. That ended that program.

WAS IT COINCIDENCE Or Divine Justice? By the way, someone called last week to ask whether I knew who Curry was. I said the name had sounded familiar, but I couldn't find him in The Chronicle's archives.

The caller reminded me that Curry was the state's star witness against him last year, when an overzealous state Board of Pardons and Paroles administration and the attorney general's office, with an ax to grind, pushed for our neighbor Josh Stephens and fellow parole officer Terry Yelverton to be prosecuted.

Two years prior, the officers had chased Curry down when he sped away on a bicycle after they asked him to stop in a known drug area. An official from pardons and paroles interviewed Curry in jail -- he was waiting to go to prison after being convicted of another cocaine possession with intent to distribute charge.

Of course, Curry would still be in jail if he'd served the sentences he'd been given in Richmond County Superior Court.

Curry was arrested and charged with selling crack Friday a week ago, exactly one year to the day after Stephens and Yelverton were exonerated by Superior Court Judge Jim Blanchard , who wisely saw that the prosecutors were on a witch hunt.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: In 2005, Robert DeMello ran for the District 1 seat on the Augusta Commission, and someone leaked his criminal record showing 36 misdemeanor citations.

Now, DeMello and two other men have been indicted on federal charges that they conspired to defraud a Waynesboro bank and other financial institutions by submitting fake appraisals for mortgage loan applications.

When he ran for the commission, DeMello went after the wrong job. He should have applied for a job in the Augusta Utilities Department.

A HOT TOPIC: Augusta Commission members approved a new agility test for Augusta firefighters last week and, while they were at it, directed Human Resources Director Rod Powell to come back with a plan for requiring everyone in the department to get with the program eventually. The move toward a more fit force would include annual medical exams for everyone, a laudable plan with a failed history.

Five years ago, the fire department received a federal grant of more than $250,000, part of which was used to buy exercise equipment for fire stations and pay for firefighters' medical exams, said Charles Masters , a former president of the Augusta Professional Firefighters.

Soon, however, so many firefighters were out on medical leave that they had trouble getting enough to man the stations, and overtime went through the roof.

Shortly thereafter, Chief Howard "Bubba" Willis returned about $100,000 of the grant, and that was the end of that.

The latest talk about fitness and medical exams has upset the older firefighters from the pre-consolidation Richmond County Fire Department because, if they were to be forced out for being unfit before they could get Social Security, they could end up standing in the welfare line after 30 years of service to Augusta.

"This city is obligated to the men that have given their whole life to this city," Masters said.

GOOD FOR HER: Mayoral candidate Lori Davis is getting a lot of credit for last week's crackdown by narcotics deputies that resulted in 236 arrests or citations. Some folks say the noise she's made about crime in Harrisburg prompted certain elected officials to try to defuse her main campaign issue.

LIKE BEES TO HONEY: Everybody running for office in Augusta this year, and a few running for state jobs, flocked to the Richmond County Committee for Good Government's annual barbecue Thursday and hovered around the front door to glad-hand all comers.

State Sen. J.B. Powell , a candidate for agriculture commissioner, was there and said he'd called Commissioner Jimmy Smith earlier that day, and a woman answered. He knew she was not Smith's wife, Beth. So J.B. asked who he was talking to, and the woman asked him whom he was calling.

"I said, 'Jimmy Smith.' And she said, 'Well, this is his cell phone, and we were wondering whose it was. He left it on a table here when he came in today.'

"He'd left his phone in Wendy's," Powell said. "I told her to call him and tell him I wanted a $100 reward for finding his phone."

Smith said J.B. finding the phone was "the worst thing that could have happened."

"I won't ever live that down," he said. "He has done told everybody. He has wore me out. Everybody at Good Government knew about it."

Bob Beckham was also at the barbecue and said his brother Herb was in University Hospital with "a little infection around his heart."

We wish Herb a speedy recovery.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS -- NOTHING BETTER FOR A POLITICIAN: Augusta commissioners held their third dinner meeting of the year at Mi Rancho restaurant downtown Thursday, and Matt Aitken 's beautiful wife, Melissa , and equally beautiful little daughter, Cecilia, walked in toward the end with a cake ablaze with candles to celebrate his birthday.

Cecilia had decorated the cake herself and helped blow out the candles.

I didn't ask how old Matt is because I knew he'd ask me the same thing.

OH, WHAT A RELIEF IT IS: Commissioners did something right when they hired Powell as human resources director. For the first time in 15 years, visitors to the office are greeted by a friendly person at the desk, and Powell makes public records accessible to the public. Somehow a real professional slipped through the cracks and was hired.

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apex24
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apex24 08/07/10 - 09:12 pm
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Remember Teresa Sams!!!!! Ask

Remember Teresa Sams!!!!! Ask her or the rest of the no nothings in the Personnel Dept.

Just Another Day
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Just Another Day 08/07/10 - 09:24 pm
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BLAH BLAH BLAH......The usual

BLAH BLAH BLAH......The usual Augusta govt. corrupt gossip news......Ex-convicts being hired, old senile elected officials forgetting their personal belongings, paroles and probationers being hired and then "groping" citizens, locals wanna-be's running for office and then defrauding banks, a city with no policy for firefighters nor hiring people with records...........What a great city.....The pearl of eastern Georgia.

CorporalGripweed
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CorporalGripweed 08/07/10 - 09:43 pm
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Funny stuff Sylvia! You never

Funny stuff Sylvia! You never fail to make me chuckle. To "Just Another Day" Of course it's gossip news and, of course Augusta IS corrupt.... Duh!...At least there is someone on Billy's payroll that can occasionally poke at 'em a bit.

Junket831
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Junket831 08/07/10 - 11:38 pm
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Go LORI Go! Way to shake up

Go LORI Go! Way to shake up Deke and the County! Sad that it takes an election to spur incumbents into action.

Junket831
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Junket831 08/07/10 - 11:44 pm
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Convicted felons have NO

Convicted felons have NO business working for government unless they are wearing an orange or striped jumpsuit. Let's expose ALL the current employees with a felony conviction. It should be a matter of public record and shining a light on the criminal past will help expose these individuals to closer scrutiny by supervisors and co-workers. Also, if they lied in any way on their application it will give management the ability for immediate dismissal. Of course, the Personnel Board will probably reinstate, but this board should be disbanded anyway. One or two more controversial decisions and their future is probably toast.

missaugusta07
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missaugusta07 08/08/10 - 02:07 am
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Thats amazing to me how they

Thats amazing to me how they do that,I'm going to school and they won't hire me,but I had all the qualifications except my education and I'm working on it...No love for me but they hire the dude that alledgely sells drugs on tax payer time...and one little small thing about education and they flat out told me NO,and rudely at that..

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 08/08/10 - 05:59 am
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Sounds like Curry scratched a

Sounds like Curry scratched a few backs in the prosecutors office and in doing so landing himself a tax funded drug distribution vehicle and route.

Just Another Day, the real sad part is that nothing ever changes in Augusta.

We have the same old tired group of folks doing the same things every year, year in and year out.

I want people who DO something in office but they either cannot get elected or give up.

Peoplejust seem to show up and go along with whatever happens. Where are the leaders in our community? The inovators. Where are the people who throw themselves into a problem and come up with the answers to solve them? They ain't in Augusta.

There just never seems to be any progress.

So others may not, but I agree with you. Situation normal.

Brad

CATFISHSTEW
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CATFISHSTEW 08/08/10 - 07:18 am
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A known Drug House on Greene

A known Drug House on Greene St.Well If you know about it...Why then
has it not been closed down ? I guess they will wait until the election is
going to take place..Take your time Deke..Lori will make it happen when shes elected. And it will not be a Drug House or Stadium.

scott-hudson
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scott-hudson 08/08/10 - 07:39 am
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Brad, you wrote - "I want

Brad, you wrote - "I want people who DO something in office but they either cannot get elected or give up."

I want you and everybody else to know that what was not reported in the legal organ this week was that another massive cleanup occurred this weekend at our historic Aqueduct site. Taking part were elected officials and common citizens like me. It should make you feel good Brad, being so far away, to know that there is another element to the current situation in Augusta and it does include the elected class. I am very proud of them because they are taking a pro-active and hands on approach to issues relevant to their constituents.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 08/08/10 - 10:28 am
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After reading about the drug

After reading about the drug busts and high visibility law enforcement undertaken after Lori Davis' complaints, I feel like a father talking to a young child....

"See that wasn't so hard was it? You did such a gooooood job and you thought you couldn't do it. I'm so proud of you. The next time it will be easy. You won't need any help, you can just do it all by yourself. Let's go get an icecream now because you did it. I'll teach you how to skip on the sidewalk on the way."

momster59
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momster59 08/08/10 - 09:24 am
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Riverman - about the drug

Riverman - about the drug busts, you echoed my thoughts exactly.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 08/08/10 - 10:26 am
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I noticed in Billy Byler's

I noticed in Billy Byler's article today that the SF Giants have not firmly committed to keep the Greenjackets in Augusta. They could hank the team from us and leave us with an empty stadium. The precarious nature of having a major league affiliation and team here should give Deke second thoughts about spending $35 million on a new stadium on the Riverwalk.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 08/08/10 - 10:32 am
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Scott, Your group is great,

Scott,

Your group is great, but YOU started it, not any elected official. I also was not talking about coming down and helping in things like what you do, I am talking about policy.

Everyone can see where the problems are and the solutions are out there for 90% of them if people just had the will to look.

Just look at the impact your cleanups have had Scott. Our community IS a better place because of it. But was there any policies that could have been put in place or better enforced to prevent the destruction in the first place?

We need systemic and organic changes in our government. We need policy changes that make sense. We need leaders that do someting instead of floataing through thier terms just loving the short meetings and consent agendas.

But hey, what do I know? I haven't even lived there in four years as you pointed out Scott.

Brad

P.S. RM1, you are pretty funny, even if most folks miss your sense of humor.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 08/08/10 - 10:40 am
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Brad said, "RM1, you are

Brad said, "RM1, you are pretty funny, even if most folks miss your sense of humor."

Thanks, I think...LOL.

About Scott working with First Friday to clean up the canal, that's great, but I'm not going to compliment him. I'm still ticked with him for not doing what he said he was going to do exposing all the Columbia County play parties.

iakovos
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iakovos 08/08/10 - 11:48 am
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If a convicted felon can't

If a convicted felon can't get a good paying job should he or she turn on you the public. What if they did their time and fines should they still be punished by you the john Q public? Isn't it criminal to not allow someone work in the USA? That's like not hiring blacks,gays and handicap. If the convict gets one year that's one year not a lifetime of punishment from the public. Wonder why they continue to do what they do ? and why you do what you do.

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 08/08/10 - 12:18 pm
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iakovos, what's criminal is

iakovos, what's criminal is hiring people with LONG rap sheets when good honest, hard-working, law-abiding citizens WITHOUT any criminal history can't even get an interview.

scott-hudson
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scott-hudson 08/08/10 - 12:22 pm
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Hey Brad, all I meant to say

Hey Brad, all I meant to say was maybe look at the cup as being half full. And no matter what corner of the Earth you wind up on, you will always be an Augustan and my brother! But while you are traveling the globe could you please take Riverman with you? Really, please, he is becoming a real thorn...

hehe love you too riverman!
s

BennyS
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BennyS 08/08/10 - 12:30 pm
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Crooks recommending other

Crooks recommending other crooks for jobs. Thats the way that our government has always worked. Our county is made up mostly of common criminals and the ones that aren't are either overpowered or forced into corruption themselves. And you better bet when Senator Walker gets out of the slammer, he'll be voted right back in to office because we are controlled by thugs. Welcome to Richmond County

iakovos
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iakovos 08/08/10 - 12:34 pm
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FallingLeaves i agree with

FallingLeaves i agree with you but in America a man has the right to earn a living. We not longer want to do the things like hard work putting in the time Americans think that someone is supose to give them a job no if there is no job create one, that's the American way.Free men work for a life for someone or for self. People use too many excuses not to work just do it! (Nike)

iakovos
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iakovos 08/08/10 - 12:36 pm
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Bennys get real that can be

Bennys get real that can be said about you and your family too look at your tree.

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 08/08/10 - 12:52 pm
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iakovos, In America a man

iakovos, In America a man does NOT have the right to earn a living. It is a privilege that should be EARNED by honest labor and good character! When you are hiring felons and turning away people WITHOUT criminal histories that have good work records, something is rotten in Denmark.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 08/08/10 - 12:52 pm
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RM1, Meant to be a

RM1,

Meant to be a compliment.

Brad

iakovos
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iakovos 08/08/10 - 12:59 pm
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If they want work it's

If they want work it's here,there are people who take great risk to come here and work for less. Do you think that they applied for the job of meter reader? no i think not that's the point!

Riverman1
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Riverman1 08/08/10 - 03:43 pm
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Scott Hudson said, "Hey Brad,

Scott Hudson said, "Hey Brad, all I meant to say was maybe look at the cup as being half full. And no matter what corner of the Earth you wind up on, you will always be an Augustan and my brother! But while you are traveling the globe could you please take Riverman with you? Really, please, he is becoming a real thorn...hehe love you too riverman!"

Nahh, I have traveled the world too much. To play on a Lewis Grizzard line, when I got back to the CSRA I nailed my shoes to the ground. But, yeah, I love you too, Scott. I have to get over it, but I just wanted to hear all the scintillating, lascivious and palpitating details.

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 08/08/10 - 05:19 pm
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iakovos, just because you

iakovos, just because you take big risks to come work here, doesn't mean you have a right to American jobs without American ID, work visas or American citizenship. It's not fair to people that ARE citizens and OBEY THE LAW, (illegal immigrants are breaking the law by coming here), that illegal immigrants and felons take citizens' jobs away from them.

teapot
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teapot 08/08/10 - 05:28 pm
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Hey, good stuff. BUT Augusta

Hey, good stuff. BUT Augusta isn't the only crooked town. Try Washington, DC. Yep, the latest Supreme Court Judge was appointed for her good work in keeping Federal lawsuits against Obama from the court. Now in Augusta, My suggestion for Supervisors or whatever, that hire criminals with long "rap sheets". Terminate both the employee and the one who hired him/her. Rewards might slow down, IF the hiring authority lost their "cushy" job for giving out the reward.

softvoice67
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softvoice67 08/08/10 - 10:29 pm
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Oh, so that's where we go

Oh, so that's where we go wrong. Honest, capable and educated job seekers apply and cannot get a job, but criminals can. Hmmm, wonder what we will find if background checks were completed on all Augusta city employees???

DoggieMom
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DoggieMom 08/08/10 - 10:51 pm
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It looks like an

It looks like an investigation into city hiring practices need to be instigated.

Why don't they hire a consulting and investigative company for $200-300K to "investigate" all the improper issues going on in Augusta, and give them the power to fire ALL involved in unethical, rule breaking behavior that has been going on for years!

Every single person working for the city, state, and federal government should be audited every 5-6 years anyway. There is so much waste that we, the public, can see on a daily basis.

Start weeding out people who "run another career" out of a public building on city or state time, using city or state resources, and auditing tax returns of city, state and federal employees, VS the city, state, or federal pay scales, etc.

There are a LOT of people double dipping, sending business to their own business without other bids being sought first, everyone seems to be pursuing something illegal, and it's time that the public put our feet down, and demand accountability in our leaders, open books in all accounting, and anyone caught cheating is banned from serving in a government position for the rest of their lives. Enough is Enough.

Bring back integrity and honor in "Serving" the public. Notice, those jobs are called "public service" because that is what the job is SUPPOSED to be...not a way to "get rich quick".
Service means you care about your community, and want to help the "little guy" get ahead, help them work through their problems with the local government, and make our community successful by helping others.
Somehow, this ideal has been twisted into a "celebrity" type of honor to be elected.
I truly want to see people running for office who have served our country in the military, or volunteered in a meaningful way, or given up the chance for a high paying job, to find a career to help others. Just think about what does our community need, not what looks good for just today???

Riverman1
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Riverman1 08/09/10 - 04:45 am
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Does Fred Russell run another

Does Fred Russell run another business on the side?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 08/09/10 - 11:33 am
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I want y'all to think

I want y'all to think seriously about what I said about the SF Giants not promising to bring the GreenJackets back here when the current contract runs out. If we put out $35 million broke as we are, we need assurances and they are not about to give them. We have lost a team here more than once. Wouldn't it be absurd to build the stadium and not have a team?

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