Commission's gentlemen have agreements

City employees are holding their breath, waiting to hear whether they'll have jobs next year, after City Administrator Fred Russell announced his extreme government makeover.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Corey Johnson is in Denver at the National League of Cities Conference at taxpayers' expense, without having paid his property taxes this year.

Johnson doesn't have to worry about the Dec. 20 deadline to pay without a 10 percent penalty. He paid his 2009 taxes on Feb. 23 with no penalty or interest, according to Richmond County tax records.

Other commissioners say they agreed not to attend national conventions this year because of the city's projected $9.4 million budget shortfall and were surprised to learn that Johnson was in Denver.

Commissioner Joe Jackson said it was a "quasi gentleman's agreement" and, although he wasn't "faulting" Johnson for going, it was like the Muslims building a mosque at ground zero.

"Just because you can do it doesn't make it right," he said. "I don't think he's representing his district. We're spending a thousand dollars to send him and his wife out of town, and we're furloughing firefighters and policemen."

Not $1,000, Joe, $2,500.

Johnson said that's not too much to pay for education.

"Education is part of the budget," he said. "We pay these annual dues to belong to these organizations -- GMA, ACCG, National League of Cities, National Association of County Commissioners. Why pay thousands of dollars in dues and not attend? If you don't go, you won't know."

That's what his predecessor, Marion Williams , said about going to the conference in Hawaii a few years ago.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT'S NOT RACIAL? Speaking of a gentleman's agreement, Johnson said he's "definitely seeking to be mayor pro tem next year" and thinks the old commission's gentleman's agreement should be resurrected during the election process.

"They said they wanted to do away with the gentleman's agreement, but I think it needs to be taken into consideration," he said. "When it's equal, it's fair. We need equalness. We need fairness."

For those who don't remember what the gentleman's agreement was, we'll review.

During the 1995 consolidation negotiations, now-deceased Commissioner Lee Beard helped set up a number of "gentlemen's agreements" that helped the bill pass. Among them was an understanding that if the mayor was white, the mayor pro tem would be black and vice versa. The same applied to the sheriff and the fire chief.

In 2005 commissioners voted to do away with the agreement when then-Mayor Bob Young , who is white, resigned and then-Commissioner Willie Mays, who is black, was appointed to serve as interim mayor until an election could be held. Then Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams, who is black, said he was going to resign as mayor pro tem in accordance with the gentleman's agreement. He changed his mind, and a few weeks later the commission voted to scrap the agreement.

Figure that one out for yourself.

Anyway, Johnson said, "We need representation from both sides of the community, the black community and the white community. You can't represent something you don't know. It's not racial. It's about fairness. I know the issues of District 2."

On the subject of Joe Bowles, who's also campaigning for the mayor pro tem job, Johnson said, "Joe Bowles don't live over here. He don't know what's going on over here. It's my time."

Bowles said he's confident he can muster six votes, maybe more, to become the Boy King's Duke. But only if he successfully dukes it out with Johnson.

As a matter of seniority, it's Commissioner Jerry Brigham 's turn, but Brigham doesn't deceive himself that he'll get the job.

"I couldn't get elected to the Regional Transportation Board," he said. "I don't think I could get elected mayor pro tem."

Several weeks ago, commissioners set about electing a member to serve on the Regional Transportation Roundtable, and Brigham really wanted to be the one, but the nominations and voting went along racial lines on the pretense it was geographical. Anyway, Joe Jackson ended up with the job.

DON'T MOVE THAT BUS UNTIL WE'RE SURE A COMMISSIONER HASN'T BEEN THROWN UNDER IT: By the way, Jackson, owner of Kirby Locksmith, will put the locks in the house ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is building for the Earnie Graham family in Augusta. Commissioners Bowles and Brigham have volunteered to help with the project, Jackson said.

THERE'S AN "I" IN MONIES: Elected officials and certain other city employees had to sign waivers to be included in the city's furloughs, and reportedly there were only two out of 2,700 who did not participate -- Augusta Regional Airport Director Gary LeTellier and Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders .

LeTellier said he was a contract employee, not a city employee, and he had a clause taken out of his contract that would allow commissioners to reduce his salary. He makes $130,000 a year.

"For me to sign that contract, that would have included two days this year and five days next year, would be an amendment to my contract," he said. "I'm not going to modify my contract because it would allow them to take what they want in the end."

Saunders said he was paid with money from a state grant for local judges, and Georgia law says the money was to be used strictly for salaries. He said he'd be willing to pay his pro-rata share and had offered to do that.

How the other juvenile court judges handled the matter remains to be seen.

COMING TUESDAY TO THE MARBLE PALACE:

- A report/update to the Augusta Commission from the subcommittee appointed to come up with a plan to operate the Municipal Golf Course at no cost to the government.

- Objections to a commission proposal to raise taxes on everything but bar owners' and restaurateurs' kitchen sinks by 10 percent. In part, the increases would be on liquor, beer and wine licenses, Sunday sales license, administrative fees and business licenses. Commissioners say they are being bombarded with calls and complaints about the increases.

12 HOURS AND 10 MINUTES OF TWITTERING:

7 p.m.: Looking for recipe to use the leftover Thanksgiving ham. Found one. It's called schinkenflekerlin. Schin-ken-flek-er-lin. A ham and noodle casserole.

7:30 p.m.: I'm cooking the noodles for the schinkenflekerlin. I'm beating the eggs and sour cream for the schinkenflekerlin. Now I'm saying schin-ken-flek-er-lin aloud over and over. It's like whistling while you work.

Ernie tells me to stop it. I say, "I can't. It's stuck in my mind."

8:30 p.m.: We're eating the schinkenflekerlin. Ernie's not saying anything, which is good. We have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy about new casseroles. I don't ask if he likes them, so he can't tell me he doesn't. But I can tell he hates it. It's not pork chops, and it's not fried.

9:30 p.m.: We're yawning and watching re-runs of City Confidential .

7 a.m.: I'm standing at the kitchen sink, eating some cold schinkenflekerlin while the coffee brews. The dogs are watching me.

7:10 a.m.: I'm scraping the rest of the schinkenflekerlin into the dogs' bowls and wondering who cares that much about what somebody else is doing all the time.

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