Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Shedding light on side jobs led to exodus

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The top echelon in the Augusta Fire Department started falling like dominoes last week starting with the announcement that embattled Chief Howard “Bubba” Willis is hanging it up for good after 37 years. The next day, Assistant Chiefs Mike Rogers and Carl Scott announced they’re retiring too, as did Willis’ brother Tommy Willis.

The chief’s retirement plans came as no surprise because he’s been out on medical leave since leaving University Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute on Sept. 20. His brother has been under fire over his moonlight work, 1-800-BoardUp, since Augusta Chronicle staff writer Tracey McManus let the sunshine in and discovered he’d had the inside track on boarding up burned-out houses at the expense of similar companies that didn’t have firefighters on the scene to recommend them. All without department authorization.

1-800-PORNUP? Now Assistant Administrator Bill Shanahan is investigating allegations of pornography being disseminated on city computers and the possible misuse of vehicles.

“It’s like somebody handed us a big gift wrapped box and inside there were hundreds of little boxes, and the first one we opened was dynamite,” said Joe Jackson, chairman of the commission’s public safety committee.

I don’t quite get the analogy, but as the late Chronicle reporter Margaret Twiggs used to say, “Any old quote in a storm will do.”

But if somebody tells me Chief Willis disseminated pornography on his computer at work, I just won’t believe it. I’ve always considered him a fine man and dedicated professional. Until Charles Masters, spokesman for the Augusta Firefighters Union, appeared at a meeting in September and said the fire department under Willis’ leadership had gone to pot and firefighters‘ lives were in danger, I’d never heard a bad word about him.

But Masters had the support of a roomful of firefighters who gave him a standing ovation, and what he said carried weight. So the next thing you know, Willis is having chest pains, in the hospital and out the door.

Jackson said some of Willis’ top people might have been working against him which was similar to what Masters told commissioners about rivalry and backstabbing in the top ranks. Et Tu Brute?

They’ll eventually hire some fire chief from someplace like Sioux City who won’t know he’s entering a political twilight zone until it’s too late.

AN OCCUPATION WORTH OCCUPYING: Occupy Wall Street? Occupy Augusta? What about occupy a forklift? Occupy a grocery store cash register? Occupy a beauty shop? Occupy a police car? Occupy a classroom?

Occupy a medical specialty like GHSU/MCG vascular surgeon Dr. Gautam Agarwal who opened the arteries in Ernie’s legs with balloons and stents last week so he’ll be able to walk without pain.

Occupy a critical care cardiac nurse specialty like Anne Rogers who gave information, support and encouragement from start to finish.

Occupy nursing and medical technician jobs in the Cardiac Intervention Unit of the hospital like Rhonda Beasley, Sarah Wilcox, Deanna Wells, Marcia Smith and Donovia Culbreth who arrive chipper at 7 a.m., help people all day and don’t leave until the job is done.

Occupy anything but the streets spouting ignorance, class envy, socialism, and demanding more free stuff.

YEAH, MAN. PEACE, LOVE, DOPE: As the Occupy Wall Street protest spreads across the globe and into the Garden City, TV reporters take to the streets with their cameramen to capture the action in time for the 5 o’clock news which will be repeated at 6 p.m., 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and again at 6 a.m. and noon the next day. But now we take you there live and on the scene.

Reporter: Sir, I see you’re carrying a sign that says, “Stop printing money!”

Man on the Street: Yeah, the government bailed out the banks with our money, and the banks gave all the fat cats big raises while the people the government took it from still work for peanuts. If the government would stop printing money, they couldn’t do that.

Reporter: Then what would happen?

Man on the Street: Wall Street would collapse, and the greedy bankers would starve to death.

Reporter: What about the rest of us?

Man on the Street: We’d still get our unemployment checks, food stamps, health care and free cellphones. We’d get by. Hey, I gotta go, man! Down with the government! Down with corporate greed and corruption! Down with the American way of life!

(The reporter turns to a group of the Y generation standing nearby waving signs at the camera with one hand and holding their pants up with the other.)

Reporter: I see you have a sign there saying, “We want jobs!” What’s it like in the job market for young people today?

Y Generationer: It’s like insane! I like graduated from college in June with a degree in psychology, and like nobody wants to pay me but like $30,000 a year to be like somebody’s administrative assistant. It’s like beneath me. Just thinking about it gave me the Yippie Flu. I couldn’t get out of bed for a month.

Reporter: Why do you think you can’t get a six-figure job?

Y Generationer: Like corporate greed and government corruption. The fat cats, the congressmen, the military-industrial complex and everybody like on Wall Street and in like Washington want to keep all the money and ride around in big black limousines while I like answer the phone and like answer dumb questions all day. I won’t do it! I’ll like die first.

Reporter: So how are you getting by?

Y Generationer: Daddy sends me a check like every month. He’s on Wall Street.

Comments (22) Add comment
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Little Lamb
46029
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Little Lamb 10/15/11 - 10:19 pm
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Let us remember that the

Let us remember that the Chief of the Fire Department reports directly to the City Administrator. Does the buck stop at the top? Not in Augusta! Here, the City Administrator does not worry, because he has surrounded himself with deniability that makes Slick Willie green with envy. Fred (What, me worry?) Russell needs to be discharged with cause because of many, many, many missteps throughout his career, but this “I see nothing! I see nothing!” defense over Fire Department chicanery should be the last straw to make commissioners send him packing. NO SEVERANCE!!

cityman
-6
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cityman 10/16/11 - 02:04 am
0
0
Nail on the head Sylvia! LOL
Unpublished

Nail on the head Sylvia! LOL

Asitisinaug
3
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Asitisinaug 10/16/11 - 03:40 am
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Great Article...

Great Article...

rwarmy
38
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rwarmy 10/16/11 - 07:26 am
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It appears to me that many

It appears to me that many firefighters, in their extensive boring-down time, spend those periods back-biting eachother and transmitting porn back and forth over the internet on city computers.

seenitB4
87304
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seenitB4 10/16/11 - 08:19 am
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Ya funny Sylvia..... The

Ya funny Sylvia.....
The firemen KNOW alot about each other...they live together....so I would say the ball just started rolling....yikes!

billyjones1949
1
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billyjones1949 10/16/11 - 08:27 am
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I like wish the reporters

I like wish the reporters would like leave them alone without any coverage. It is not newsworthy for people that work and earn their own way. There always has been and always will be people at the top who earn big bucks. Without them we could not earn ours. The money goes in circles-earn, spend, earn, spend. Great article Sylvia.

waterman1
4
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waterman1 10/16/11 - 08:42 am
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Extensive boring down time?

Extensive boring down time? You obviously haven't spent much time in a busy engine house. In and out of the station 10 to 12 times a shift. Training, hydrant maintenance, cleaning, equipment service, reports ect. Transmitting porn back and forth? Doesn't it always come down down to that? When someone runs out of legitimate concerns, they throw "looking at porn" into the mix.

Riverman1
84080
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Riverman1 10/16/11 - 08:59 am
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I'm glad the stents worked

I'm glad the stents worked out well for Ernie.

Yeah, as I predicted with Willis, things were orchestrated against him. Oh well, move on to the next sucker who becomes Fire Chief in this crony filled, dysfunctional place. Ask Al Gillespie to find a good candidate. Remember him?

andy.hunt4life
0
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andy.hunt4life 10/16/11 - 09:39 am
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Yeah, waterman, it seems as

Yeah, waterman, it seems as though rwarmy has spent his/her entire life in a firestation (insert joke here). Apparently, many people in Augusta don't realize that the firefighters that are having the issues are NOT the ones that you see fighting fires, but the ones that work in offices. Maybe warmy will drop by one of the stations and actually get to know the rank and file.... And riverman, you did predict it, but I do not think Al G. would be interested in a return.

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 10/16/11 - 09:44 am
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Brilliant commentary on these

Brilliant commentary on these OWS goons. They call themselves the 99%? I'm the 53%. The 53% who pays the taxes for them to sit on their rear-ends and complain about what they DON'T have. Get over it.....and yourselves. Keep up the good work Sylvia.

Riverman1
84080
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Riverman1 10/16/11 - 09:51 am
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Andy, you got that right

Andy, you got that right about Gillespie not wanting to return to Augusta. He had less than kind words to say about the politics of the place when he left.

constituent
164
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constituent 10/16/11 - 11:07 am
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I hope Richmond County grand

I hope Richmond County grand jury probe Chief Willis liked they did our first black fire Chief Ronnie Few. Now all of a sudden Chief Willis is retiring because he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. We will see does the color of your skin plays a factor on who the grand jury probe in Richmond County? I think so.

allhans
23663
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allhans 10/16/11 - 02:00 pm
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Could we go on to the next

Could we go on to the next department when this one is done. Where there is one fire (no pun intended), chances are there are a few more.

david jennings
601
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david jennings 10/16/11 - 12:16 pm
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Thanks Sylvia for the OWS

Thanks Sylvia for the OWS analogy, I can like just hear this type response from one of these people who think they are just having an unbearable plight.

Lori Davis
924
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Lori Davis 10/16/11 - 12:54 pm
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In defense of the fire

In defense of the fire department. Six wonderful guys came out yesterday to get my cat out of a tree 80 feet up. Many thanks to them. When all is said and done, these are the guys that really count.

waterman1
4
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waterman1 10/16/11 - 04:51 pm
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So Chief Willis is retiring

So Chief Willis is retiring because he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar? What cookie jar? Chief Howard Willis has not been accused of one thing illegal or immoral. To even mention his name in the same sentence as Ronnie Few is shameful. Chief Willis has more integrity in the tip of his pinky finger than Ronnie Few has in his entire body. And shame on you, constituent, for implying that anything Chief Willis has done was, or is illegal. Another case of just mentioning something, and hoping people will believe it.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 10/16/11 - 02:50 pm
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Excellent letter Sylvia

Excellent letter Sylvia regarding occupying something worth occupying.

Lori Davis
924
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Lori Davis 10/16/11 - 03:16 pm
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Willow, you are soooooo

Willow, you are soooooo right!!!!

shrimp for breakfast
5456
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shrimp for breakfast 10/16/11 - 05:27 pm
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Sylvia I know the last part

Sylvia I know the last part of the article was a joke but I believe it's actually true. Daddy sends them money so they can protest whatever it is they're protesting.

Brad Owens
4448
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Brad Owens 10/17/11 - 04:50 am
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I wish I could get folks to

I wish I could get folks to occupy a commission meeting every now and then.

Brad

yak11
0
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yak11 10/17/11 - 09:38 am
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ROTFLMAO....this is rich, the

ROTFLMAO....this is rich, the three chiefs since Consolidation, Few, Gillespie and (do we count Chief Mack?) and now Willis. For anyone not in the emergency services this is a hoot. Sadly after Few most people worth a darn did not even apply (some quit during the process) Gillespie used Augusta as a springboard nothing more. Willis will be remembered as the man who was begged by Aiken to straighten out the disaster at Graniteville....but I guess we forget that. As for the Goonions at Augusta Fire...LOL what a bunch of moroons. They have a great history for destruction and biblical incompetence.

Final word on the Flea Party (the occupy whatever crowd) I love it. The Y generation donation to the world.

GodisSoGood
892
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GodisSoGood 10/17/11 - 12:01 pm
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great article, Sylvia. For

great article, Sylvia. For the record, it was reported on Channel 26 over the weekend that no evidence of wrong-doing has been found on fire dept computers....confirmed by the IT department at Richmond County.

Sweet son
10415
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Sweet son 10/17/11 - 12:17 pm
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@Waterman1. Thanks for

@Waterman1. Thanks for correcting constituent because you saved me the time. As I was reading the comments the thought came to my mind that the thread was nice and clean and the mention of color was not there but constituent ruined it all!!! He had to PLAY THE RACE CARD! I hope he gets his black chief and that he does an excellent job. Hadn't had much luck with color in some offices; even the highest one in the nation! Go Herman Cain!

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