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 …

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Riverman1
82382
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Riverman1 02/24/13 - 10:00 am
7
5
Reports Surfacing of Deke's Behavior in Phoenix

Well Mayor Deke Copenhaver just got back from a conference in Phoenix and I’ve heard all kinds of tales about him out there. He drank milk out of a paper cup and slept most of the time with the TV on. When those at his dinner table told him to loosen up a little, he turned red and spilt his milk. The taxi driver he rode with has been contacted and said, Deke hummed loudly along with the radio and chewed gum. He also asked to stop by the Yogurt Stand on the way to the airport.

Riverman1
82382
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Riverman1 02/24/13 - 09:56 am
4
4
One Former Mayor

I can only imagine what the column would have looked like if...

Little Lamb
45313
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Little Lamb 02/24/13 - 10:06 am
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2
The Precedent Has Been Set

The commission gave administrator Fred (What, me worry?) Russell authority to had out raises last year, and he promptly handed out a bunch of them to city engineers and a few selected department heads. Now, it looks like the rest of the high-paid employees who were not recipients of Russell's largesse (other people’s money) are waddling up to the trough to get in on the action.

Riverman1
82382
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Riverman1 02/24/13 - 10:09 am
8
1
LL, you ain't seen nothing

LL, you ain't seen nothing yet. Wait till you see Russell's severance package that will be enough to send him merrily into a luxurious retirement.

seenitB4
85643
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seenitB4 02/24/13 - 10:11 am
5
2
Living with the Tree

Ok now.....on & on & on

Lessons for Tree......
Grammar
Comportment
Ride "nicely" on the bus
Keep the laughter down
Sit in the middle of the bus....never in front
When having fun.....stay away from cameras
Only sing in the shower

More to come....cause after all ya just been there a month or so...& no Riverman will not be helpful in this situation.....& neither will KSM......they are toooo much fun kind of folks....& it jest ain't fittin!!!

also....try to keep your matching socks on....people are WATCHING YOU!

HenryWalker3rd
2393
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HenryWalker3rd 02/24/13 - 10:14 am
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1
Roundtree was the only one
Unpublished

Was Roundtree the only one talking?

The other men were just bystanders?

Riverman1
82382
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Riverman1 02/24/13 - 10:27 am
6
3
SeenIt, Train Ride Around Atlanta

SeenIt, you know that train ride around Atlanta they used to put the conventioneers on for fun? I don't know if they still do that, but a few years ago I was at a convention and they put us on the thing with all the booze we wanted. It was a LONG two hour ride. If they had written about my behavior in the paper I would have been in big trouble on about 9 levels.

seenitB4
85643
Points
seenitB4 02/24/13 - 10:44 am
4
3
285 around Atlanta

Well you know some have been stuck on 285 & couldn't get off....haha

I get stuck on Sugarloaf sometimes....esp when I have a good country song playing....:)

dichotomy
32121
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dichotomy 02/24/13 - 12:27 pm
9
1
"and forgot whose team he was

"and forgot whose team he was on."

I've been saying for a year or more that Grady Smith was consistently voting against the wishes of the taxpayers he was supposed to be representing. Grady was "reaching across the aisle alright...."I need a little help with this ethics thingy bro's so I'm voting for the raises". Maybe Grady Smith thinks the only way to "stop this black-white thing" is to kowtow to the black commissioners on every issue the black commissioners decide to make a racial martyr....which is just about every issue that comes up. They even managed to turn a common sense decision on the golf course into a racial vote.

One sheriff commented, “You should have heard him on the way back.”

More to come folks. You can dress Roundtree up, pay him big money, and give him a new SUV, but you cannot suppress forever what he really is. He IS what his work history shows he is. Electing him sheriff will not change his nature. Embarrassments / lawsuits / investigations / indictments to follow.

I guess it wasn't enough to have the biggest joke in the two state for a county commission......we had to elect a loud talking, embarassing joke with a questionable work history for a sheriff to match the rest of our leadership. Message to the "majority"......you can elect them but we don't have to respect them. They may not have to earn their pay raises but they have to earn our respect. Being black is not enough of a reason for some of us. I've got nothing against having a black sheriff and black commissioners. But if Roundtree and Marion Williams are the best you've got, don't expect respect. And I've got no respect for white, yellow, or brown commissioners who go along with these racial shenanigans and use the "why can't we all just get along" excuse like Grady Smith is trying to do. That really translates into "we know it's wrong but let's give them this one.....especially since I've got this little ethics thingy".

As for Guilfoyle.....yeh, I think Guilfoyle has been up front about the contract his company had and I think Guilfoyle is doing a pretty good job of trying to represent the interests of his district and the taxpayers of this county as a whole. I gave him a hard time for a while but I think he has gotten his feet on the ground, is digging on the issues, and he's growing on me. Grady, on the other hand, has really pee'd me off with his votes lately.

GnipGnop
11889
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GnipGnop 02/24/13 - 01:15 pm
10
1
Not his job...

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.

Grady your job is to represent the taxpayers, not worry about racial lines. Anyone wanna bet that it was a bait and switch and the ethics motion passes in Grady's favor?

Just My Opinion
5456
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Just My Opinion 02/24/13 - 02:30 pm
5
1
Smith said his voters know he

Smith said his voters know he was put in office to vote the way HE thought was right. No, Mr. Smith, that sounds good, but that is NOT correct. There are plenty of times that your consituents WANT you to vote another way, and if you are representing them, then you should vote how THEY would want you to vote. Pretty simple. You've obviously become selfish in your thinking. It is true that you have one vote, but that vote is not yours to throw around, and use as a bartering chip. You need to sit back and re-evaluate how you want to finish your career as a public servant. What do you really want your legacy to say about you?

JRC2024
8529
Points
JRC2024 02/24/13 - 03:14 pm
5
1
Sheriff Roundtree will be

Sheriff Roundtree will be Roundtree because that is the way he is and Sheriff Strength will always be Sheriff Strength because that is the way he is. We all know from the past actions which one has the greatest integrity. Grady disappointed me and I mayl not vote for him again.

whozit
147
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whozit 02/24/13 - 04:20 pm
3
7
Jst a point

To the person above who said that Grady is on the way out and that is why he wants to change the rule. Did you even think what you were saying or did you just not understand and were repeating something you heard? If he was not on the commisssion, he would not care if the rule was changed or not.

Darby
25080
Points
Darby 02/24/13 - 06:59 pm
4
4
"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."
.
As soon as you uttered the phrase, "Everyone knows..." you lost all credibility. Sort of like "Everyone knows that global warming is real" and "Everyone agrees the rich don't pay enough taxes". and "Everyone knows Republicans are all racists."

I got one for you. Everyone knows liberals are full of it.

Justin4466
43
Points
Justin4466 02/24/13 - 07:54 pm
1
3
The Irony of all the comments

Why is everybody on here more concerned about the sheriff cursing and getting a raise than three sitting commissioners committing a misdemeanor crime.

useful
628
Points
useful 02/24/13 - 08:08 pm
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1
I VOTED FOR MR SMITH AND MR

I VOTED FOR MR SMITH AND MR ROUNDTREE.IT IS NOT THE FRIST TIME I HAVE BEEN WRONG,BUT I WILL TAKE MR SMITH ADVICE AND
HELP VOTE HIM OUT OF OFFICE,IF HE HAS NERVE ENOUGH TO RUN AGAIN.

Austin Rhodes
2852
Points
Austin Rhodes 02/24/13 - 08:13 pm
4
0
An ethics violation...

...is not a crime. BTW...who is it in procurement that allowed these deals to be made?

Both Smith and Guilfoyle explained the errors that led to their infractions...and I believe Jackson's fall under the $$$ amount that would have ever even shown up in the paperwork. (no bid required...his company was cutting keys at THE CITY's request)

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 02/24/13 - 08:20 pm
1
0
Only IF it's true...

@owensjef3..."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 Obabama."

Only IF it's true. You just can't make this stuff up. I do realize it is protocol for the liberal media to cover up bad acts, but, fortunately, there are still enough good conservatives like the AC/Sylvia Cooper who are willing to call a spade, a spade.

Austin Rhodes
2852
Points
Austin Rhodes 02/24/13 - 09:19 pm
1
0
The AC's editorial team...

...agreed with raising the salaries...just not discussing it behind closed doors.

Little Lamb
45313
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Little Lamb 02/24/13 - 09:31 pm
2
0
Whozit

I want to say hello to Whozit and welcome to the forum. Whozit posted:

If he was not on the commisssion, he would not care if the rule was changed or not.

You are absolutely correct. Grady Smith must fish or cut bait. Smith needs to decide if he wants to earn money from city contracts via his business or be a commissioner. It is unethical to do both at the same time.

Brad Owens
4290
Points
Brad Owens 02/24/13 - 09:49 pm
1
0
Great column this week...

Funny how Wayne leads the charge to fight the TEE Center sweetheart deal, Joe Jackson helps and then all of the sudden they are "unethical?"

Yeah, RIGHT!

Darby
25080
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Darby 02/24/13 - 10:27 pm
3
0
“Everybody else is worried about my vote,"....

he said. “We’ve got to send a message and stop this black-white thing.”
.

Well, that's good to hear. I'm sure that means that we are going to see reciprocal overtures now from the black commissioners in response, right?

That silence is Richmond County holding its collective breath.....

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