Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Commission's gentlemen have agreements

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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.

Comments (33) Add comment
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Junket831
0
Points
Junket831 12/04/10 - 11:26 pm
0
0
Why wasn't Johnson charged a

Why wasn't Johnson charged a penalty for filing his taxes late? Please provide a breakdown of the $2,500 cost of his trip. I would think he could find an affordable flight and decent hotel room for less than $1,500, including meals.

No, he should not be selected for the mayor pro-tem position. Not regularly paying your taxes in a timely manner should not be rewarded with a promotion.

The Georgia legislature should pass laws regarding elected officials who fail to pay their taxes in a timely manner. This should not result in a reprimand, but removal from office by the governor and legislature.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 12/04/10 - 11:46 pm
0
0
We paid for Mr. Johnson AND

We paid for Mr. Johnson AND his wife?

Ouch.

followthemoney
0
Points
followthemoney 12/05/10 - 01:49 am
0
0
No one with any guts will say

No one with any guts will say anything because of Johnson's color. NO GUTS!!!!!!!!

WoodyKaminer
2
Points
WoodyKaminer 12/05/10 - 03:05 am
0
0
Tell Corey Johnson to drive

Tell Corey Johnson to drive his own stinkin car to these made up conventions. Then we will see how bad he really wants to learn. What a freaking waste!

Sandpiper
0
Points
Sandpiper 12/05/10 - 04:17 am
0
0
Some of the funniest twitter

Some of the funniest twitter I've read. Thanks Sylvia.
LeTellier and Saunders had good responses to the waivers.
Glad to see the commission is SOP.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 12/05/10 - 04:24 am
0
0
So, our elected leaders

So, our elected leaders belive that a white person can not adequately serve on behalf of black persons within our community and that a black person can not serve on behalf of whites.

Does this apply in state and federal government as well?

What is really amazing is that they stated this wasn't racial...really? If not racial, what the heck is it besides pure ignorance and stupidity?

And, if we have a white Sheriff we must have a black Fire Chief? Really? This ignorance is what is KILLING OUR CITY and keeping us from moving forward...how about we simply hire the best person for the job? Male or Female and forget the race....it appears our commissoners don't even consider the hiring of the many other races of individuals who could fill these positions....

So much change is needed in our local government it is just pure sad.

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 12/05/10 - 06:58 am
0
0
Every week Sylvia writes

Every week Sylvia writes about the stupidity of politics in Augusta...this latest thievery with Johnson is beyond absurd and yet nothing ever changes over there.......the real tax paying citizens of Augusta have no voice ..no say in how their city is run...all you all can do is post your displeasure in these forums....seems that the powers that be are acting like that idiot in the WH and refuses to listen to the People......perhaps a revolution in Augusta is needed?

blues550
380
Points
blues550 12/05/10 - 07:05 am
0
0
Great theater for us in
Unpublished

Great theater for us in Columbia County. Hey! We'll send you Brett Mcquire.

Brad Owens
4858
Points
Brad Owens 12/05/10 - 07:43 am
0
0
Corley said, "Education is

Corley said, "Education is part of the budget," then he went on to say, "When it's equal, it's fair. We need equalness. We need fairness."

Equalness? Equalness? Are you kidding me? Commissioner, did you mean EQUALITY? Hey Corley, try spending some of those "education" funds taking some grade school grammar classes please.

Augusta takes one step forward and two steps back,

Brad

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 12/05/10 - 09:27 am
0
0
Johnson said, "Joe Bowles

Johnson said, "Joe Bowles don't live over here. He don't know what's going on over here. It's my time. Cory, learn where to use does not and don't. Correct grammer makes people think you are smarter and incorrect grammer makes people think different. And Cory, why do you think it is your time. This is supposed to be about the betterment of Richmond County and not about you. Do you agree?

scott-hudson
10
Points
scott-hudson 12/05/10 - 09:35 am
0
0
Sylvia, You hit the ball out

Sylvia,
You hit the ball out of the park...again.

MysteryWriter
0
Points
MysteryWriter 12/05/10 - 09:41 am
0
0
Googling the conference

Googling the conference website, registration for the event was between $615 and $855 depending on where Johnson fit in the membership categories. Hotel rates run between $119/night to $209/night. And government per diem for meals for Denver is $66/day. (Source: http://www.nlc.org/CONFERENCES___EVENTS/CONGRESS_OF_CITIES___EXPOSITION/...)

Hotel: $119 x 5 = $595 plus tax
Registration: $615
Per diem: $66 x 6 days = $390

That's $1600 without airfare (which using travelocity.com and using the same days of travel from Atlanta to Denver this week, Tuesday through Sunday, I get airfare over $400 for just one person) and using the bare minimum for expenses. $2500 might just be legitimate.

Riverman1
89985
Points
Riverman1 12/05/10 - 10:27 am
0
0
Scott Hudson says every week,

Scott Hudson says every week, "Sylvia,
You hit the ball out of the park...again."

He never says what part he enjoys though. Can we assume if he skips a week, it means he didn't find the column interesting? Some things bother me that shouldn't.

MistaChuckD
0
Points
MistaChuckD 12/05/10 - 11:03 am
0
0
[Commissioner Joe Jackson

[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."]

Why isn't he faulting Johnson for going? What the hell? Why isn't he faulting Fred Russell for allowing him to go? Well I'm faulting Johnson for going and Russell for allowing him to go.

Why did his wife have to go? He can be a commissioner but he can't travel alone? Furloughing people but paying for Johnson and his wife to travel across the country? What the hell?

How do we know what, if anything, he learned? Make him AND his wife write an essay about what they learned.

I can tell you what they learned. They learned that no matter what is going on; The Richmond County government will always find a way to make fools out of the people of Richmond County.

Tell him to spend more time worrying about the citizens of this county and less time coming to only African-American shows at the James Brown Entertainment Complex going backstage with Alvin Mason trying to rub elbows with whatever star is available.

He wants to be Mayor Pro Temp why? There must be conferences next year in other cities he and his wife want to vacation in?

[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."]

If that is the case, we should just back up a U-Haul truck to the front door of the White House and move The Obamas out of there right now. He represents America and there are more White people in America than there are Black people. Clown!

[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."]

We need to be governed by the best person NOT by the next person in line or the person who thinks they are next in line.

Cadence
219
Points
Cadence 12/05/10 - 11:11 am
0
0
The white community and the

The white community and the black community. I felt sick when I read that. It represents what lies at the root of most of this city's problems. Our own leaders are perpetuating it in order to keep their power. (not paying interest on past due taxes my Aunt Fanny) Our only hope is that the next generation will be able to move beyond racism and focus on making this a great community, all one, all pulling in the same direction.

MistaChuckD
0
Points
MistaChuckD 12/05/10 - 11:16 am
0
0
@Junket831 He wasn't charged

@Junket831

He wasn't charged a penalty because that's the way the system works in RC.

@followthemoney

Black, White, Green or purple, this guy owes us money. He can help make the rules, but he doesn't have to follow them?

@WoodyKaminer
Not a good idea to have him drive his own car. He get where he was going and all of a sudden his vehicle would need a major overhaul paid for by the people of Richmond County.

@Brad Owens

He said it correctly. He stated that stupid thought as correctly as it deserved to be stated.

MistaChuckD
0
Points
MistaChuckD 12/05/10 - 11:21 am
0
0
@followthemoney That is a

@followthemoney

That is a very stupid comment. Black people are not mindless sheep. We think for ourselves just as every other group of people on this planet do.

MistaChuckD
0
Points
MistaChuckD 12/05/10 - 12:00 pm
0
0
Even though you don't wish to

Even though you don't wish to believe it, we do not call each other and formulate one idea.

Let me ask you a question. Did White people truly believe Bush knew what he was doing when they were giving him those high approval ratings?

You do know that it took a whole lot a White Americans to put Obama in office right?

Let's not change this from what it is. This isn't about Obama, Black people or White people. This is about the ridiculous Richmond County government that continues to give the finger to Richmond County residents.

MistaChuckD
0
Points
MistaChuckD 12/05/10 - 12:59 pm
0
0
You obviously have an issue

You obviously have an issue with Black people. You need help.

Brad Owens
4858
Points
Brad Owens 12/05/10 - 01:20 pm
0
0
MistaChuckD, Touche. You are

MistaChuckD,

Touche. You are correct Sir.

Brad

ameliaf
0
Points
ameliaf 12/05/10 - 02:13 pm
0
0
from the article: Johnson

from the article: Johnson said, "Joe Bowles don't live over here. He don't know what's going on over here. It's my time."
______________________

While Mr. Bowles DOESN'T "live over here" it does seem a case can be made for it to be his turn. (I know I make my own mistakes, but that one bugs me: he "doesn't", not he "don't".)

My uncle had a story about his uncle and "gentlemen's agreements". Seems that several gentlemen who were dry good grocery suppliers were fighting so fiercely over who got to sell flour to which retail grocer that they were all loosing money over it. So, they got together and agreed on who each would sell to and at what price. (I know, illegal now, but this was in the late 1800's, so maybe it was not illegal then. Besides, the great uncle has long since gone to whatever reward God intended for him.) My great uncle found, however, that he was getting undercut by one of those who had made this agreement. He called it "a gentlemen's agreement between s o b's."

Is it routine for a spouse to accompany the elected official when going to an educational symposium? Business doesn't do that anymore unless it is for the big boss. And, since, the big boss is everyone of us, I would say that the privilege does not apply to anyone on the Commission.

WoodyKaminer
2
Points
WoodyKaminer 12/05/10 - 02:31 pm
0
0
Do we really need 10

Do we really need 10 commissioners, a mayor, an administrator, CEO's, COO's, and all of their assistants? Why not just have 3 people on a commission and let those people work it out. And you would never have to worry about a tie. The way it is now, nobody has to answer to anybody. What a joke! Fire them all and start from scratch. Theres a freaking idea.

Riverman1
89985
Points
Riverman1 12/05/10 - 02:40 pm
0
0
I believe Cory Johnson paid

I believe Cory Johnson paid for his wife's ticket. Of course he already had the hotel room at city expense.

On another note, it looks like Joe Bowles is prepping to run for mayor. As many serious problems as I've had with him over the TEE, I believe he will be a plus. I can't believe he will hide like Deke does when trouble surfaces.

ColCo
905
Points
ColCo 12/05/10 - 02:48 pm
0
0
Cory Johnson is Marion

Cory Johnson is Marion Williams without the mouth.

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 12/05/10 - 03:24 pm
0
0
If he had the money to pay

If he had the money to pay for his wife's ticket, why has he not paid his taxes? (don't tell me he most probably used a CC as you can use a CC to pay your taxes!)

MistaChuckD
0
Points
MistaChuckD 12/05/10 - 03:29 pm
0
0
Not take his wife and feel

Not take his wife and feel her wrath or not pay his taxes and suffer no repercussions? You make the call.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 12/05/10 - 03:54 pm
0
0
How do you say commissioner
Unpublished

How do you say commissioner and gentleman in the same sentence?

MistaChuckD
0
Points
MistaChuckD 12/05/10 - 04:18 pm
0
0
you gotta spit right after

you gotta spit right after you do.

Jackson
0
Points
Jackson 12/05/10 - 04:43 pm
0
0
Commission's gentlemen. Now

Commission's gentlemen. Now there's an Oxymoron for you!

dichotomy
35994
Points
dichotomy 12/05/10 - 05:16 pm
0
0
There you have it folks. So

There you have it folks. So much for the hopes for the new breed. Same crap, different age. The true spirit and twisted logic of the black commissioners. And the reason why Augusta will always be a broke, podunk, backwater, welfare wallowing town. And our City Charter guarantees it will stay this way forever. Can we run this "if the sheriff is white then the fire chief has to be black and if the mayor is white the mayor pro tem has to be black" thing by the EEO Commission. Oh, I forgot. Aren't they all black too. This county makes all of it's decision by race, all of it's hiring by race, the Procurement office does all of it's contracting by race, and all of our tax money is distributed to the various areas by race. Unfortunately we rural south county folks are truely mixed and don't have enough of either race to get any of the money. They just send us the billls. And we continue to sink in the quicksand while there is prosperity all around us in neighboring counties. Anybody know why that is? We all know why but you will never see it written about or hear it talked about.

The rural county residents need to do whatever it takes to dissolve Consolidation and form their own government. This one don't work, won't work, and never will work. It's spelled out in the Charter between the lines. I wish the state, or the courts, would take over this county and declare it totally disfunctional.

Oh yeh, I would like to make a citizen's arrest of Tax Commissioner Kendrick for not collecting the due penalties on late paid property tax. Is that a courtesy he extends just to black commissioners or is that for everyone? We should all hold off paying our taxes and see whats the real policy Kendrick enforces for late taxes. I feel like a fool for paying mine on time every year. Can I get some of that gentleman's agreement this year and let me be the one to get a freebee on paying my taxes late. I'm white and it's my turn.

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