Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Grady Smith's 'yes' vote on sheriff, solicitor raises upsets some

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The board of directors and members of McDonald’s Coffee Club on Peach Or­chard Road are so upset over the big raises the Au­gusta Commission voted to give Richmond County Sher­iff Richard Roundtree and State Court Solicitor Kellie Kenner-McIntyre last week that they’ve talked of little else.

They take issue with Commis­sioner Grady Smith for casting the deciding vote for the racially motivated raises, much more so than with the news that his company has done business with the city.

Do not be deceived by all the talk about the raises not being raises, but “salary adjustments,” Roundtree’s master’s degree from Troy Univer­sity and such.

If there were a new white sheriff with the morals of an alley cat, a disregard for the integrity of investigative files and the possible loss of government-owned guns and ammo, and praising himself online under the name “Grateful Mother,” he wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a $16,500 raise two months into the job, especially if his deputies hadn’t had one in four years.

HE SHOULD HAVE LET SLEEPING CODES LIE: Commissioners Smith, Joe Jackson and Wayne Guilfoyle have acknowledged billing the city for goods or services in violation of the city’s ethics code.

Ironically, the violations surfaced after Smith proposed revising the city’s conflict-of-interest policy to allow commissioners and employees to bid on projects and do business with the city.

So Smith not only faces scrutiny and criticism over the violations – along with Jackson and Guilfoyle – but also has to deal with continued phone calls from irate constituents.

A public airing of the conflicts is expected when the proposed ordinance revision comes up at Monday’s Admin­istrative Services Commit­tee meeting.

Commis­sioner Marion Williams rejected the notion of a commission censure and said the violations should be investigated by an ethics committee of an outside agency, such as the Georgia Municipal Association.

“As far as censure by the commission, that don’t do anything,” Williams said. “I think we should talk about it, and we have to talk about it on an open floor.”

He said city General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie “had no right” at the request of one commissioner, Smith, to draw up a proposed ordinance change that would allow employees and public officials to participate as subcontractors in city projects if they operate or have a legal interest in an established business enterprise.

Williams also contends such a change would “open up a box” whose contents would spill out and never be put back in.

ONLY THE TAXPAYERS LOSE IN THIS GAME: As for Smith, the perpetual athlete reliving his glory days, he said he can take the heat.

“I’m an ex-baseball player for Richmond Academy,” he said. “When you’re on the mound, you’re used to being called names. I really don’t let stuff like that bother me. I was sent down there to vote my conscience. If people don’t like the way I vote, vote for somebody else next time. If they’re real good, I’ll vote for them. I’ll even vote for Jerry Brigham.”

Smith, who is white, said he joined the five black commissioners - Williams, Bill Lockett, Bill Fennoy, Alvin Mason and Corey John­son – in voting for the raises to show some of his colleagues that somebody has to reach across the aisle.

“Everybody else is worried about my vote,” he said. “We’ve got to send a message and stop this black-white thing.”

He said his vote was not influenced by the fact that Roundtree created a division in the sheriff’s office and put his nephew, Lewis Blanchard, in charge.

“I can put my hand on the Bible to that,” he said.

Smith continued with another sports analogy, likening the commission to a football team of 10 players and city Administrator Fred Russell as quarterback.

“He’s in charge,” he said. “I was told that Ronnie (Strength) had signed off on it, and I was assured Russell thought so, too. I listened to Fred, and I don’t regret it.”

IN THIS CASE, PERCEPTION IS NOT REALITY: The story that Strength approved Roundtree’s raise because Strength signed off on a copy of last year’s budget that listed his annual pay and those of other department employees is false, Strength said.

“Anybody with two nickels worth of sense would know I cannot give an elected official a raise,” he said. “I did not and cannot approve a raise for him. What I signed off on was a human resources form for him to be put on the payroll. I was the sitting sheriff and department head, and someone had to sign off on it.

“The amount on there was the amount that I was making. It was put in there for whatever reason. It could have been 5 million, but that was not his salary. His salary was $110,000 set by the Legislature. My increases came from cost-of-living increases. My increases were over 12 years.

“That form was nothing more than to get his name on the payroll before Jan. 1. I can’t recommend any elected official’s salary. If that was so, I’d have a lot of sheriffs calling me. I had no conversation with anyone.”

GRATEFUL MOTHER WOULD BE SO ASHAMED: Roundt­ree’s “inappropriate language” offended some members of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Asso­ciation and their wives who were on a bus with him during a trip to an Atlanta restaurant in January, according to sheriffs on that bus.

Sheriffs attending the association’s annual conference were being driven to a restaurant in two buses for dinner hosted by a vendor.

One of the wives was so offended she said, “Watch your language! There’s some ladies on this bus.”

One sheriff and his wife were so upset by the cursing that when the bus stopped, they got off and onto the other bus. The sheriffs said Round­tree also got into a confrontation with a woman who was assisting the vendor in entertaining the sheriffs.

Apparently being urged to curb his enthusiasm during the trip to the restaurant didn’t alter Roundtree’s abhorrent behavior. One sheriff commented, “You should have heard him on the way back.”

Roundtree did not respond to a phone message and an e-mail outlining the allegations and asking for his response.

But then what could he say?

It is not known whether complaints concerning Round­tree’s behavior will be lodged with the association. But it is certain that if he behaves as described in public surrounded by his peers while representing Augusta, what his behavior might be when he thinks no one is watching has to be of great concern.

THE PRECEDENT HAS BEEN SET: Other Richmond County officials said to be seeking raises are Probate Court Judge Harry James, Clerk of Court Elaine Johnson, Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey and Assistant Executive Director Travis Doss.

No doubt there are others we just haven’t heard about.

POP QUIZ: What’s the real reason Smith voted to give Roundtree a $16,500 raise and Kenner-McIntyre a $10,000 raise even though they haven’t been on the job two months?

A. His nephew heads a division Roundtree created in the sheriff’s office.

B. He thought it would be good for business.

C. He thought it might keep Williams, Mason and Lockett from hanging him out to dry over doing business with the city.

D. He was having a flashback to his glory days on the baseball mound and forgot whose team he was on.

Answer: D

WHOEVER HEARD OF ANYBODY CALLED “TAT?” I did after I referred to Tat Thompson as “Pat Thompson” in last week’s column. So now I need to take the one word of advice I’m always giving Ernie: Beltone. Still, I could have sworn …

Comments (47) Add comment
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augustafollowsblindly
20
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augustafollowsblindly 02/23/13 - 08:19 pm
1
0
Documents to the contrary
Unpublished

All of the documents surrounding this so called raise need to be posted on the Augusta Chronicle website as they have been posted on a Augusta political website but when the link is added to a comment, the comment is removed. These documents clearly show that Strength was paid the same salary as Webster on the first day of his employment. They also show that Ga state law requires supplements above and beyond $110,000.00 (the minimum salary by law for the Sheriff of Richmond County) that include $4,000.00 for court security supervision and that all COLA (cost of living adjustments) previously issued must be paid to the Sheriff, even newly elected Sheriff’s on day one of the job. Therefore, with these adjustments as required by law, the Sheriff’s minimum salary with supplements exceeds $120,000.00. Just because information is posted in an opinion column or on an entertainment radio show does not mean that it should continue to be misleading or untrue.

Austin Rhodes
2852
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Austin Rhodes 02/23/13 - 08:24 pm
12
4
whozit
147
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whozit 02/23/13 - 08:52 pm
6
22
Sylvia

Again Mrs Cooper, I will take the integrity of Grady Smith over yours any day of the week. Everyone knows that you and other columnists for the Chronicle have used it as a platform to further the wishes of Chronicle owner Billy Morris over the taxpayers of Richmond County for years. If anything needs investigating it is the business arrangements that have been approved through the years that have enriched Mr Morris. For the owner of a newspaper to allow editorial content to demand of the government that they expend tax dollars that will then increase the profit of a shell comany owned by the newspaper's owner is unethical. For details see the crosswalk being demanded as part of the TEE center. I've known Grady Smith over 30 years and have never had reason to question his integrity. Disagree with his vote if you will, but do not denigrate his integrity. That is another example of the press today, they refuse to acknowledge there are sometimes simple disagreements.

roblever59
48
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roblever59 02/23/13 - 08:53 pm
8
2
What team is he on?

There should only be one team. The Richmond County Commission Team.

Austin Rhodes
2852
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Austin Rhodes 02/23/13 - 08:57 pm
14
4
All Sylvia did...

...was get Ronnie Strength's quotes to set the record straight. I believe Grady when he says Fred Russell told him all that. Which means Fred lied to him.

I wonder what Grady will do about that?

Little Lamb
45277
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Little Lamb 02/23/13 - 09:01 pm
9
2
How Long?

How long will it take Commissioner Smith to find his Bible and blow the dust off it so he can put his hand on it?

Little Lamb
45277
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Little Lamb 02/23/13 - 09:04 pm
6
3
Merit System — Toothless Tiger

Even though Sylvia did not mention the Richmond County Sheriff Merit System Review Board, many of us heard Freddie Sanders discuss it on a recent Austin Rhodes Radio Program. Apparently, the law creating the Board has less bite than Sanders was alleging. Anyway, I can't see anybody in the sheriff department filing a complaint or grievance about mistreatment over their demotion or firing.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 02/23/13 - 09:28 pm
17
1
Dumb and arrogant to boot!

“I can put my hand on the Bible to that,” he said.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Mr. Grady may have served well in previous years, but he is definitely on a long roll of major goof ups now.

Every move made by him this week reeks of wrong doings, and self serving motivations. He should be honorable and resign; his trust has been destroyed.

If there is any cost in that proposal, Mr. Grady should reimburse the city. Andrew MacKenzie should be replaced with someone with some ethics and sense.

Little Lamb
45277
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Little Lamb 02/23/13 - 09:34 pm
14
2
MacKenzie

Good points, Willow. I was not surprised that Grady Smith asked city attorney Andrew MacKenzie to draw up an ordinance weakening the city's current conflict of interest ordinance; but I was quite disappointed that MacKenzie acquiesced. In general, a city attorney is supposed to assist commissioners, but the attorney is under no obligation to do something he thinks is against the city's best interest.

By the way, Kudos to Austin Rhodes for having former mayor Bob Young on his radio program regarding the ethics ordinance. Young was largely responsible for the ordinance, and he spoke passionately about why it is wrong to back up on ethics.

TCB22
622
Points
TCB22 02/23/13 - 09:41 pm
19
1
The crude behavior on the bus

The crude behavior on the bus is disappointing. Not much of a role model for the troubled youth. I feel a tremendous sense of hopelessness for the good, hardworking people living in Augusta.

AutumnLeaves
6998
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AutumnLeaves 02/23/13 - 09:47 pm
10
3
I heard...

I wonder if Frazier and Roundtree have been sharing notes on how to offend decent women, or men for that matter, into leaving a room? I haven't heard Roundtree but I heard Frazier make some eye-brow raising expressions at Villa Europa one evening. I got out of there as soon as I could, even though I was not a part of the conversation, just happened to sit nearby. No sense in listening to air pollution if I don't have to. From the sound of the article above, I'd hate to be stuck on a bus with no escape, with either of them. What a pity.

Riverman1
82167
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Riverman1 02/23/13 - 09:58 pm
14
1
Hilarious Column

Well, y'all know my views, but I did find this a hilarious column. Who snitched on Roundtree being a little loud on the bus? Man oh man, do I know some events where some public officials got out of line. We could have fun telling on all these people.

Austin Rhodes
2852
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Austin Rhodes 02/23/13 - 10:01 pm
13
3
Sylvia had to leave some of the story out...

...but the rest of it is even funnier!

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/23/13 - 10:06 pm
8
2
The bus thing, just wow!

The bus thing, just wow!

AutumnLeaves
6998
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AutumnLeaves 02/23/13 - 10:10 pm
10
2
Lest I forget....

Thank you Sylvia for an excellent column. Kudos to you!

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/23/13 - 10:10 pm
12
2
Sylvia, you are the

Sylvia, you are the best...Give the girl a RAISE!!

Sweet son
10037
Points
Sweet son 02/23/13 - 10:36 pm
9
1
And Marion wants commissioners popped by the Georgia

Municipal Association. He should be looking at "his" sheriff and his alleged lack of manners as well! His prior missteps and his current actions just keep on piling up! Forfeited money for his new car rather than putting it towards something that would help his guys on the street; unbelievable! The bus should have left him in Atlanta where that kind of conduct is the norm!

SemperParatus
3225
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SemperParatus 02/23/13 - 11:00 pm
12
2
Shame on...

...Grady Smith for supporting this. If Grady really wanted to do the right thing he would have said no to Roundtree while saying yes to securing pay raises for Roundtree's deputies! And while I am on the subject of Grady Smith, let me share a little something with y'all. I have written and telephoned him in the past regarding other issues and he has yet to respond. In speaking with someone in his office at Smith Brothers, I was told not to take it personally - that Grady doesn't call anyone back! When he ran I was fired up because he was a successful businessman and my feeling was that he would lean on that experience while managing the county. When he ran against a large field and won without a run off, I remember thinking - wow! But now I am ready to vote for his replacement when the time comes.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 02/23/13 - 11:13 pm
9
3
Don't encourage his misbehavior!

River, I'm sure you are gentleman enough to know the difference between boys night out and the appropriate social behavior for couples.
To make matters worse, it sounds as if there was more than one request or warning for him to have made amends and change his behavior.

His display of leadership, manners, and modelling of accepting and setting healthy boundaries is important to the deputies and to the community.

Likely there was a good representation of Georgia Sheriffs and their wives. Come on now, we've got to put Augusta's best foot forward if we want to attract events and fill that Tee Center! Eyes are upon him. He's got to SEE that it matters very much how others perceive him.

Grandpa Jones
1041
Points
Grandpa Jones 02/24/13 - 06:39 am
7
9
...

Shame on Sylvia for conveniently, or as some would say, "purposely", leaving out any mention of the new Recreational Director and his $10,000 bump in salary over that of the former, long-time veteran of the dept, Tom Beck. I guess info like this doesn't play well in the "lets beat up on Richard Roundtree syndrome." LOL.

PitchFork007
473
Points
PitchFork007 02/24/13 - 06:45 am
14
1
Still milking the public cash-cow

The number one priority of Augusta's elected and appointed public officials is to treat the taxpayers as a cash-cow for their personal benefit. Then they will keep milking it until it is dry. When it is dry they will raise your taxes and fees and create burdensome new taxes and fees - such as the SPLOST, the recent T-SPLOST, and the soon to be Rain-Tax Fee that is going to rudely slap you each time that you open up your monthly water and sewage utility bill.
Public officials never ever get enough of your money from which they personally benefit and from which they purchase favors and votes.
Now that Roundtree has been given a brand new luxury SUV and a 15% pay raise before he has even been on the job for two months,
do you think that you tax-paying cash-cows are going to benefit from
a smarter, harder working sheriff who will reduce the Augusta crime rate? If so, I've got a fool's gold mine that I'll sell you.
Grady Smith has proven that he is one of our chief milkers of our public cash-cow. He has also proven that he is not an independent thinker and that he will vote against the will of his constituents and resident citizens. Smith is gullible, easily influenced, and easily persuaded by other members of the Augusta Commission who will take advantage of his gullibility. His mental state of mind and mental capacity to serve the public is currently suspect and in question. From now on Smith's actions and votes will be scrutinized and watched like a hawk.

Riverman1
82167
Points
Riverman1 02/24/13 - 08:23 am
5
7
Giving Augusta A Reputation As A Fun Place

Hey, Roundtree with his comportment on the Sheriffs’ bus ride may have given Augusta a reputation as a place to come have some fun. Come here and let your hair down. What happens in Augusta stays in Augusta type fun. We can do things in our new TEE Center on that carpeted floor that will have you running back over to the Marriott side like it is the Motel 6 out Washington Rd. on a Friday night.

Interesting that only some on the bus found him too much. I guess he was okay at the dinner? He was having fun with others on the bus, but no mention is given of who they were. I imagine the county sheriffs of the state are a varied group with our rural counties spread from the mountains to South Georgia and they are not used to riding buses THESE days.

Did the straight-laced mountain folks sit at the front of the bus and tell the driver to keep his eyes on the road and watch the speed limit while the fun was going on in the back? I bet when they were ordering drinks at dinner they giggled and said sweet tea with lemon for excitement on that Saturday night. We need to get them down to the Augusta TEE on a Saturday night with all its happenings, get them liquored up and let them see how the wild and crazy bunch live.

Riverman1
82167
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Riverman1 02/24/13 - 07:12 am
8
3
Get Back on that Turnip Truck

Well, yaaaaaahhhh, Grady was wrong to propose commissioners and other county employees could do business with the city, but let’s not think commissioners have not been steering work and jobs to their “associates” for a long time. This column about the Sheriff, mixed with Grady, reminds me of one commissioner making a big contribution in the sheriff’s election. We all know the funny story behind that and him saying he didn’t actually have that kind of money, but so and so did.

Let’s not be naïve here and act like Grady is the anti-Christ because he proposed (yeah, stupidly) letting officials and employees openly bid for city work. I’ll use a nice word, "networking," has been going on with city officials and contracts for a long time before Grady.

Dixieman
14337
Points
Dixieman 02/24/13 - 08:05 am
12
3
2000000 POINTS

Vulgarity is vulgarity no matter when and where it takes place. Don't offend the ladies especially. Not good for Augusta's image.

1313
53
Points
1313 02/24/13 - 08:39 am
1
9
Biased

Don't worry about it Grady. All these naysayers are just "lack toes" intolerant.

owensjef3
5639
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owensjef3 02/24/13 - 09:27 am
5
7
I guess the local media is
Unpublished

I guess the local media is not behind the new sheriff. For some reason I think he'll get treated like Fox News treats President Obama. This pay raise, which is the same pay as the out going sheriff, is the local media's Benghazi. lol

grinder48
1884
Points
grinder48 02/24/13 - 09:29 am
0
0
Impeachment
Unpublished

Can sheriffs and county commissioners be impeached in Georgia? It's a shame if not. When is Snuffy Smif up for re-election? When can we vote Grateful Mother roundtree out of office? (What kind of idiot man would call himself grateful mother?)

Just My Opinion
5454
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Just My Opinion 02/24/13 - 09:30 am
7
2
As far as Grady Smith and

As far as Grady Smith and those who are praising his high ethics.....HOGWASH! He is obviously doing this to make money, and when you are in it for making money, you'll do whatever it takes to make the money. THAT is why the rules were put in place to begin with....to avoid corruption and malfeasence. How Smith can justify that is beyond normal reasoning. I think Smith's multiple abscences due to his phycial problems have led to him thinking desperately. He knows he's on the way out, so why not push for things that will benefit him in the future.....Roundtree's raise will certainly help his nephew, and contracts with the city will pad his retirement funds very nicely.
Regarding Roundtree's abusive language on the Sheriff's trip, it's obvious to me that he had no one there with him to reign him in and teach him about how to act. In other words, his puppeteers weren't around to control him, and you see what happens! I'm sure they'll send him to etiquette classes and he'll come out next time with a napkin on his lap and standing up when a lady enters the room!

nocnoc
41081
Points
nocnoc 02/24/13 - 09:56 am
7
3
In the case of Wayne Guilfoyle Ethics and billing the city

Sorry, I am going to get unusually long winded here.

Wayne Guilfoyle on his election 2+ years ago was upfront and in the open about already having a SUB-Contract in place to do some small SUB-CONTRACT work for the City/Airport.

He never hid it, and he contacted the City legal people inside the government about it, within days of his election win and prior to his taking office.

While the Downtown Powers are trying to spread False Ethics violations around, they are forgetting to mention, he lost money on the subcontract. A fact verified by: the Prime contractor, the City, the Commission and a few media / reporters that now, some how have overlooked to mention this and other facts.

Face it voters, the $14,000+/- Part Time Job as a Commissioner Salary, does not even begin to pay the bills. As such, each of our commissioners must have outside employment to pay, to feed and clothe their families. So either make the Commissioner positions Full Time and pay them at 3/4's a Sheriff's salary, or let us figure out a tightly controlled honest way that is open and above board to bid on and limit the types of city business.

Personally, I feel Wayne is being hounded, because he has been asking questions and trying to apply fiscal logic to some of the special good old boy deals.

We all know the examples:
Asking questions about the T-Center, the floating parking deck, in the door salary increases, the Patch, and the Bus system vote that the Downtown 5 stand to make big bucks off of running it "locally", using our tax money again in town and not the county.

All these votes and I have not even touched on several other weird deals & agreements that he has and continues to challenge in the interests of his district and the county voters.

Little Lamb
45277
Points
Little Lamb 02/24/13 - 09:43 am
6
3
TEE

If you think about it, Paul Simon is practically a city department head. He has certainly been called to appear many times before the commission this year. So what Grady wants from city government is not that different than what Paul wants — moolah.

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