Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Nobody wins in Augusta Commission's Stupor Bowl II

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EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this column incorrectly reported the year former State Rep. Robin Williams became involved with Community Mental Health Center of East Central Georgia. The activities that led to his federal prosecution began in 1999.

Roccontained The year The Augusta Commis­sion’s Stupor Bowl II took place Monday during commission committee meetings. The venue was changed this year to the Marble Palace from the TEE Center because commissioners wanted to have home-field advantage. Besides, none of them wanted to be seen playing there because of the controversy surrounding the center’s management contract.

When the whistle blew, Com­mis­sioner Alvin Mason grabbed the ball and ran with it by making a case for seeking competitive bids for Augusta’s ambulance service. In the spirit of good sportsmanship, he said the current provider, Gold Cross EMS, should be given nine months’ notice to prevent the contract from automatically renewing.

Mason repeatedly said he didn’t want to address any Gold Cross shortcomings, only the ones that might be in the 8-year-old contract.

Controlling the offense for most of the quarter, he called Fire Chief Chris James from the sidelines to speak on what he saw as the contract’s shortcomings. Then Mason sent Sammy Sias into the game. Sias, representing the Richmond County Neighborhood Alliance, was obviously itching to pass on complaints about the ambulance service, but Commissioner Marion Williams intercepted and asked why they wanted to fix something that wasn’t broken.

“Somebody ought to be showing me where we got to this point,” he said.

The clock kept running the whole time, and the first quarter ended after what seemed like an hour when somebody called for a vote on the motion to send the matter to a subcommittee. It failed, and the score was 0-0.

In the second quarter, public services committee members Williams and Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson blocked a lease agreement with Virginia Beach Golf Management for Augusta Municipal Golf Course. Johnson first ran interference by recommending they postpone taking action until after the city hires a recreation director.

Williams said he’s opposed to giving the course to “somebody else.”

“They’re not going in there just to break even,” he said. “They’re going in business to make money, and I don’t blame them. But just like they’re doing it, we can do it if we put people in place and hold them accountable, and stop paying them for not doing their job.”

When the vote was called, the score was still 0-0.

The quarter ended with city Administrator Fred Russell’s update on plans for increasing government office space. Completely renovating the Marble Palace will cost about $31 million, $18 million of which is in the bank. The cost has risen because of fire code safety and elevator requirements. Russell proposed issuing bonds for the difference, plus another $7 million for a new stand-alone Information Technology building on a corner of the parking lot.

Russell carried the ball for most of the third quarter, discussing budget items that hadn’t been approved. On the revenue side, $1.25 million in increased property tax revenue is expected from property discovered through new technology and $130,000 more from newly discovered cell towers. (There are twice as many as they thought there were.)

The finance committee agreed to spend $115,000 on a cell tower valuation project; $11,500 for public defender office interpreters, court reporters and witness fees; $86,180 for a contract compliance officer; $165,530 for tax assessor’s personnel; $64,600 for a Probate Court associate judge; and $75,000 for an Accountability Court DUI case manager.

The committee nixed $780,560 for employee raises, ran with forfeiting $500,000 in excise taxes on energy produced by local industries and punted on six other requests.

By the fourth quarter of the Stupor Bowl, many of the people from the Lake­mont Neighborhood Association who’d packed the stands had become stupefied and left. Those remaining pleaded with the city to modify an application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so that all of Lake Olmstead could be dredged instead of only a portion.

Property owner John Bailey went on the offensive and said that when he bought his property years ago, the tax bill was about $200 and is now more than $2,000. The lake is so silted up around his property that he can almost walk from one side to the other, he said.

The engineering services committee also punted.

Finally, Commissioner Bill Lockett called the game by deleting one item from his committee’s agenda, postponing one, consenting two and calling for a work session on three.

Afterward, some usually long-winded commissioners said the meetings were lasting too long.

Can you believe it? Wil­liams is back, and the meetings are lasting too long.

As for Williams, he says, “If you don’t want to work this job, you might not ought to apply for this job.”

ANATOMY OF A CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY: A federal appeals court in Atlanta has denied former Georgia Rep. Robin Williams’ appeal of his federal fraud conviction.

Williams was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to a 10-year term for a scheme that bilked millions of dollars from the Community Mental Health Center of East Central Georgia.

It all started in 1999, when Williams asked the center’s executive director, John Warner, whether he would let Williams’ friend Mike Brockman, who had been fired from Gracewood, come to work in the business office if it didn’t cost him anything. Warner agreed, and Williams put $60,000 in the state budget as a line-item salary for “the business manager at CMHC,” according to then-deputy director Sharon Haire’s 2003 anonymous letter to the board.

Brockman gained control of the money by hiring Williams’ company, CHS, as consultants. Then he convinced the board they needed a business contract to handle the money and wrote the request for proposals to ensure CHS would get the contract. Brockman then manipulated the board into giving them the contract. It then became easy to funnel money to Williams and back into Brockman’s pocket, according to Haire.

Haire’s letter continues:

“Next, (spokesmen from a public relations firm hired by Mr. Williams) told the board the commissioner would pay for the center to get a (Certificate Of Need) for a children’s unit. That it would not cost the board anything. Later, after the board believed an application had been made, (they were told the Department of Human Resources commissioner had reneged on his offer and that the center had to pay $250,000), he then charged the money out to two different budgets and skimmed off $700,000 to Robin and himself.

“He did this with the help of Chad Long, a lobbyist he was paying along with Rick Camp, even though it is against the law for the CMHC to employ lobbyists. He also paid Pam Ste­phen­son $20,000 for her role in this as a consultant. Next, Mike convinced the board that the commissioner was going to consolidate Community Service Boards and the only way to assure autonomy was to let Mike form a private company (Insight) and manage all of the contracts.”

Williams rewarded Brock­man with cash and gifts, including a $7,200 Caribbean cruise. He also paid his girlfriend, Patricia Fink – a former Hooters girl – $10,000 a month to run errands and entertain, half of which she used to pay for a $1.1 million condo in Hilton Head they were buying. She said Brockman hired her to work at the mental health center, but she couldn’t remember her job title or what she did there, according to her trial testimony.

The Augusta Chronicle investigated the center’s payments and contracts, wrote stories and pressed state officials for answers throughout 2003. The publicity helped trigger investigations that led to the conviction of Williams, Brock­man, Camp, Long and Augusta pharmacist Duncan Fordham.

WOULD THIS BE EARNED RAISE CREDIT? You know, kind of like earned income credit? You get the credit. But you didn’t earn it.

WGAC radio talk show host Austin Rhodes reported that Augusta commissioners discussed raise requests for Sheriff Richard Roundtree and State Court Solicitor Kellie McIntyre in a legal meeting. The requests were for $140,000 a year. Sheriff Ronnie Strength made $126,000 a year.

To paraphrase a local philosopher of things political, if you don’t want the pay these jobs offer, you might not ought to apply for these jobs.

Comments (55) Add comment
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7387
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 02/03/13 - 09:43 am
3
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Thanks CG. River,

Thanks CG. River, considering that Whittle is the Sheriff of one of the fastest growing counties in the state and he is getting spillover from Richmond Co. he's positioned his department to be ahead of the curve and prepared for what comes his way. He has competent, well educated and trained deputies and has put into place programs to deal with problems that Richmond County is only reacting to. Also, I haven't read any "Grateful Mother" posts about Whittle, nor has he had a problem leaving SWAT equipment or open case files where they could have been tampered with!!!
That being said, Yes, he does deserve more money.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/03/13 - 10:04 am
3
2
Good comment

Good comment ColdBoiledPeanuts. Clay has done a fine job and enjoys an excellent track record. I think the people of Columbia County would love to give him a big raise and our deputies.

Riverman1
82442
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Riverman1 02/03/13 - 10:09 am
2
1
I know I'd give Whittle a

I know I'd give Whittle a raise if it were up to me.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/03/13 - 10:11 am
3
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That being said, I also think

That being said, I also think if those who actually elected Mr. Roundtree would like to give the new sheriff of 30 days in Richmond County a raise, they should do so. Although as Austin so aptly pointed out, try to do it the legal way.

Riverman1
82442
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Riverman1 02/03/13 - 10:22 am
4
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An important aspect often overlooked

An important aspect often overlooked is the population. I can pretty accurately predict the crime rate of communities (and school test scores) without knowing anything about the particular law enforcement department (or school system). It's all about the socioeconomic demographics.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/03/13 - 10:26 am
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And your point is?

And your point is?

Riverman1
82442
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Riverman1 02/03/13 - 10:31 am
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I am saying it's a much more

I am saying it's a much more difficult job being sheriff (or deputy) of Richmond County than Columbia County. Can you seriously disagree with that? Same with Superintendent of Schools. I could do Nagle's job from my boat in the river with limited minutes on my cell phone and still have superior results.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/03/13 - 11:01 am
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Oh, River

Is there a provision under the law to provide compensation for socioeconomic demographics? Or do we just make up the rules as we go? Isn't that what many complained about him for; not being able to follow protocol, dismissing or revising the law for a better outcome?
I don't think that has anything to do with asking for the raises. It certainly wasn't brought out.

However, Mr. Roundtree did see the problems before asking for the job. In fact, it is the platform that he successfully campaigned upon. If you will recall, his unique ability to handle the criminal element is what set him apart from all the others and made him the man for the job.

CobaltGeorge
155632
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CobaltGeorge 02/03/13 - 11:04 am
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RM

is now treading in places the nobody dare tread...where the truth lies!

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/03/13 - 11:08 am
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I really want this to be

I really want this to be over, but okay, CG.... what truth?

CobaltGeorge
155632
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CobaltGeorge 02/03/13 - 11:11 am
3
2
WB

However, Mr. Roundtree did see the problems before asking for the job. In fact, it is the platform that he successfully campaigned upon. If you will recall, his unique ability to handle the criminal element is what set him apart from all the others and made him the man for the job.

Time will only tell by his actions and statistics if you are correct or not.

Hope it isn't the same results as our King SMNCICBHO, The Hammer & Sickle Man campaigned on.

By the way, I'm hoping you are right.

CobaltGeorge
155632
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CobaltGeorge 02/03/13 - 11:14 am
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WB

If I was to post the nonPC truth of the real problem....Sean would make me "History"

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/03/13 - 11:16 am
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Don't you mean whether he was

Don't you mean whether he was correct? I don't know if he can or can't.
I do hope that he can. Everyone wins.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/03/13 - 11:17 am
3
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LOL, and he'd send me to

LOL, and he'd send me to entertain you, CG.

CobaltGeorge
155632
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CobaltGeorge 02/03/13 - 11:25 am
2
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I Guess

many of you don't remember living under the "Good Old Boy" world of Sheriff Tankersley and Sam Sibley. My close friend Sheriff Hensley and Whittle has eradicated that lawless control and brought real law and order in this peaceful county.

galaxygrl
1185
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galaxygrl 02/03/13 - 11:55 am
3
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Sheriff Tankersley

I don't remember Tankersley putting up with much in Columbia County. That was an easy was to get invited to move somewhere else.

countyman
19731
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countyman 02/03/13 - 12:40 pm
3
3
ColdBeer. What is the

ColdBeer. What is the definition of spillover from Richmond County?

I hope you're not trying to compare the number of crimes committed in Columbia County by non residents compared to Richmond County...

During the average week numerous people will be charged with shoplifting, drug possession, robbery, DUI, theft by taking, domestic violence, etc who live all over the metro/CSRA in Richmond County.

CobaltGeorge
155632
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CobaltGeorge 02/03/13 - 01:31 pm
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OK countyman

lets break down the numerous people who will be charged with shoplifting, drug possession, robbery, DUI, theft by taking, domestic violence, etc, who live all over the metro/CSRA by "socioeconomic demographics."

countyman
19731
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countyman 02/03/13 - 01:38 pm
2
2
Colbalt. Please go visit the

Colbalt. Please go visit the jail in Richmond County on Phinzy road, and then go to the one off Columbia rd in Columbia County...

The overwhelmingly amount of people in the CC jail actually live in Columbia County.

CobaltGeorge
155632
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CobaltGeorge 02/03/13 - 02:04 pm
2
2
No Arguing That Point countyman

but you still haven't broken it down statically in each jail as to race that are there due to "shoplifting, drug possession, robbery, DUI, theft by taking, domestic violence, (added Murder),etc. Lets also give the number of those that are in those jail from other counties.

jwarner6
63
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jwarner6 02/03/13 - 02:14 pm
4
1
Article errors

The dates and other facts surrounding Robin Williams entry in to the mental health center are in error. I received a telephone call from Robin Williams in early 1999, not 1991, after hearing I had a Business Manager vacancy, recommending Michael Brockman. Additionally, Sharon Haire was never the Asst Director while I was Director since I had resigned. The shooting at the mental health center occurred in 1991, which may have been the cause of the date confusion.

Sweet son
10104
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Sweet son 02/03/13 - 03:28 pm
2
2
Hey Riverman!

What happened to Austin when you invited him to banter some more?? LOL!

Austin Rhodes
2854
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Austin Rhodes 02/03/13 - 04:10 pm
3
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Austin is right here...

...and I have enough on my plate with current events without rehashing ancient history...

Nothing new in that Williams story EXCEPT I am surprised he could afford an attorney to keep pushing this long. I thought his $$$ ran out a LONG time ago...

Riverman1
82442
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Riverman1 02/03/13 - 05:24 pm
4
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Williams was kiting checks

Williams was kiting checks just before he went to prison and he was locked up for that, too.

itsanotherday1
42228
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itsanotherday1 02/03/13 - 08:37 pm
2
1
Bulloney!

"That is not enough money for his job...give him a fat raise...thefolks in Columbia county are LOADED & they can afford it....I think $50,000 more would be nice...:)"

Clay is a great sheriff, but his job isn't that challenging...........yet. When the roaches start encroaching, then maybe a raise will be in order.

SFCRET85
4998
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SFCRET85 02/04/13 - 12:53 am
1
0
Riverman102/02/13 - 08:27 pm
Unpublished

In other words a Columbia County Republican?

bumblebeerose
675
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bumblebeerose 02/05/13 - 06:13 am
0
0
You guys make my night

I sit here on third shift and just love reading these post. It is a good way to stay awake. Thanks for that.

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