Sylvia CooperCity Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Azziz, Augusta Commission need ethics lesson

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Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something comes along to prove you wrong.

Who could have imagined Georgia Regents Uni­versity would remove Augusta State University logos from photographs of ASU championship teams’ jerseys and hats in a recruitment brochure, especially after GRU President Ricardo Azziz promised the word “Augusta” would be used in all advertising?

Why, we’ve hardly recovered – and never will – from our outrage over the deceitful way he lobbied the Geor­gia Board of Regents to vote for the GRUsome name he chose – without even telling them the results of a $45,500 survey showing the name “Augusta” elicited by far the most positive responses.

The University System of Geor­gia’s Code of Conduct, which applies to all members of the system, states that everyone is to “uphold the highest standards of intellectual honesty and integrity” (tell the truth), “act as good stewards of the resources and information entrusted” to their care (don’t waste money on bogus surveys and brochures with altered photos), and “respect the intellectual property rights of others” (don’t alter another publication’s photos).

I think Azziz needs to hold an ethics workshop at GRU and sit on the front row. It could be a joint workshop with the city, and Au­gusta commissioners who’ve been doing business with the city could sit beside him.

THE MAN WITHOUT A HOMETOWN: The oldest man in the world makes one last visit to his birthplace, only to find it’s not Au­gusta anymore.

Oldest Man: Where are we?

Driver: We’re near Broad Street in Azzizville.

Oldest Man: That’s funny. I never heard of Azzizville when I was growing up in Augusta, but we had a Broad Street. Are you sure this is Azzizville and not Augusta, home of the Masters Tournament?

Driver: I’m sure. I’ve been here since 2020, and it’s been Azzizville and the Ri­cardo Azziz Golf Tour­nament. Look, we’re about to cross the Azzizville Bridge heading into North Augusta.

Oldest Man: Ah-ha! If we’re heading into North Augusta, we must have just passed through Augusta. Turn around. Take me back down Broad Street. I want to look at that water tank that has J.B White’s written on it. I can’t believe it’s still there.

(The driver exits Gor­don Highway onto Broad Street.)

Oldest Man: Look! The Disco­theque is still in the 500 block. And look over there. The Augusta Museum of History is now the Azziz Museum of History. What has happened to the Garden City in the 75 years I’ve been in Europe? Go on up Broad Street, turn left and go to Walton Way. I want to see the Augusta College campus, home of the championship Jaguars.

Driver: It’s not Augusta College. It’s been renamed GRUA, and the Jaguars were Photoshopped into extinction.

Oldest Man: GRUA? What is that?

Driver: Georgia Regents University Azziz.

Oldest Man: Azziz? How could this have happened to mine and Woodrow Wilson’s boyhood home?

Driver: I don’t know. It was this way when I got here.

Oldest Man: What about the Medical College of Georgia?

Driver: What’s left of it is part of GRUA now.

Oldest Man: I’ve lived too long. Who is this Azziz, and how did he obliterate the name Augusta and name everything for himself?

Driver: All I know is what I heard. Azziz was hired as president of MCG. He was a cool guy, everybody thought, and before you could say “lickety split” he’d ingratiated himself with the Board of Regents by recommending MCG and ASU be named after them. The Azziz came later. Everybody was aghast that in one fell swoop their institutions of higher learning, their histories, legacies, their championship sports teams’ records, logos and trophies were gone.

They looked to their mayor, but the only thing he stepped forward for was a ribbon-cutting. They looked to their commissioners, but they were too busy watching NASCAR because they heard it had something to do with race. So they turned to their local legislators, who met and issued a resolution that didn’t even have the name “Augusta” in it.

The people in Augusta tried to “Save the A,” but Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia Board of Regents said, “Kiss our A.”

“WHAT ARE WE TURNING INTO? SALEM, MASS.?”: Au­gusta Commissioner Grady Smith asked that question while talking about his company’s subcontracting on city projects, a violation of the ethics code.

Smith is one of three commissioners facing possible censure or reprimand at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

Smith’s plumbing and air-conditioning business has earned more than $240,000 working as a subcontractor on Augusta Utili­ties construction at Fort Gordon.

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle’s business, Au­gusta Tile Crafters, was paid $70,785 subcontracting for general contractor Choate Construction at Augusta Regional Airport.

Commissioner Joe Jack­son’s company, Kirby Lock­smith, did work for Operation Augusta Ink and the sheriff’s training range for two years until City Administrator Fred Russell advised him to stop. Jackson said nobody ever told him the city had an ethics ordinance.

“I take full responsibility, but somebody could share the blame,” he said. “We have a purchasing department, a finance department and a legal department, and somebody could have come to us and told us it was unethical.”

Jackson contends that black commissioners Mar­ion Williams and Bill Lock­ett are pushing for him, Guil­foyle and Jackson to be punished because they’re white.

“I feel if the shoe were on the other foot, that’s what you’d hear,” he said. “I think this is a witch hunt to go after us.”

Williams agrees that it’s a racial issue, but not for the same reason Jackson gives. He said if black commissioners had violated the ethics policy, they’d have been prosecuted vigorously.

Lockett said it really hurt him when he heard what Jackson had said.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “We don’t need that.”

“It’s turning racial because somebody’s been digging, and I suspect it’s Mar­ion Williams,” Smith said. “I’m sorry that Richmond County is sending a message to young folks not to be involved with the commission because it might affect your business or your relatives’ businesses. It’s sending a message that all we want are retirees or double or triple dippers. We don’t want businessmen.”

Commissioner Corey John­son said he’s not in favor of “lambasting his colleagues.”

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “It was an ethics violation, not a crime. It’s time to move on.”

Commissioner Donnie Smith said, “We need to deal with this publicly. And we need to quit calling these guys criminals. They violated a city policy. They did not violate the law.

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” he said.

A FEW FOR TEE: Augusta’s new conference center officially opened with the usual suspects, aka elected officials, and other VIPs in attendance. Only three commissioners were there, though: Johnson, Mary Davis and Donnie Smith.

Grady Smith is still under doctor’s orders to stay off his feet. Alvin Mason was reportedly videotaping his granddaughter’s play, and Lockett said he had other commitments.

I can’t account for the others, except for Bill Fennoy, who was holding a fish fry at the Eastview Community Center to raise money for the family of toddler John Thompson, who was removed from a burning house Feb. 10 and later died.

More than 200 people attended the fish fry, which is expected to raise more than $3,000 when the final checks come in, Fennoy said.

The Augusta Commission honored firefighters Daniel Rigdon, Ralph Jenkins, Adam Krebs, Mary Guest and Travis Petrea for the heroic rescue.

Comments (19) Add comment
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Riverman1 03/02/13 - 09:31 pm
The policy is right to

The policy is right to prevent public officials from doing business with the city. However, Guilfoyle was into that contract before he became a Commissioner. Joe Jackson did such a miniscule amount of business it's not worth it. Grady is so sick, I can't see picking on him. So just say it's wrong and drive on.

Donnie Smith said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." I'm not saying a word.

justputtin 03/02/13 - 09:43 pm

There are some good commissioners in Augusta but they are outnumbered. Azziz is due for a change of scenery. His "forward thinking" would be better served somewhere like Portland or Seattle.

jwilliams 03/02/13 - 10:59 pm
Quote from Commissioner Joe

Quote from Commissioner Joe Jackson, taken from the Augusta Chronicle; City Ink (12, 2012), “I don’t mind playing the freaking race card because it will show the true colors of this commission because you have six people who love Ronnie Strength,” Jackson said. “If you really want it to be about race, I can make it about race. This was a statement made by Jackson concerning the naming of the Sheriff’s Administration building.
Taken from The Metro Courier, 12/2012 Titled Joe Jackson Vs. Aviation Commission. The article started out with Jackson making this statement in an open meeting consisting of Commission members, staff members and women, “This is Bulls- - -!” He went on to say, “This is the type of crap that goes on in Augusta.” He was making reference to the Augusta Aviation Commission’s failure to elect a new chairman at their December 2012 regular meeting, and yes, Jackson uses that card again and blames it on RACE.
And again in this very same article, Jackson is at it again; Jackson contends that black commissioners Mar¬ion Williams and Bill Lock¬ett are pushing for him, Guil¬foyle and Jackson to be punished because they’re white. Forget about the fact that they have already admitted to the violations, no matter how small they are, a violation is a violation.
It seems as though every time things do not go Jackson’s way, he takes his ball and goes home yelling the “RACE CARD” all the way, but let us not forget, he told the world on 12/2012 in an article printed in the Augusta Chronicle, “If you really want it to be about race, I can make it about race.” Williams agrees that it’s a racial issue, but not for the same reason Jackson gives. He said if black commissioners had violated the ethics policy, they’d have been prosecuted vigorously. Can you say Calvin Holland?

HenryWalker3rd 03/02/13 - 11:06 pm
just saying

Jackson pulled the race card first.

And I agee with Lockett and Sweet Brown, "aint nobody got time for that."

404Law 03/02/13 - 11:33 pm
1 are wrong.

It is more than an ethics violation when an elected official attempts to change a law/policy to benefit themselves financially or otherwise. That my dear friend Corey is a crime, and I suspect the Commission (sans Corey) will push to do something more than a reprimand (at least for one one of them). Even more, given that some of the contracts in question are dealing with state and federal governments (Aviation, Ft. Gordon), it is likely that there will be much more to come down the road.

Also, I suspect Wayne, Grady, and Joe will have to excuse themselves from all discussions of this issue when it comes before the Commission. Thus, Corey, Mary, Donnie and the Mayor will not be able to sweep this under the rug - there won't be enough votes!

Corey, I feel for you though. I know there is a lot of pressure on you from the establishment, especially given your very friendly 'contracting relationships.' Some folks say that you remind them of Tommy from the sitcom Martin. You have money, but no one knows where you work. Hmm.

Nonetheless, good luck trying to tap down your brethern on this one.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/03/13 - 12:12 am

Can anyone list here what Corey Johnson does for a living?

augustarookie 03/03/13 - 05:29 am

Someone actually needs to tell a commissioner that doing business with the city they represent is an ethics violation??? Someone who can't figure that out on their own should never be commissioner.

agustinian 03/03/13 - 06:48 am
There is an easy solution

Mssrs. Smith, Guilfoyle, and Jackson:
To avoid the ethical dilemma's in every contract you sign add the following: "This company is owned by a City commissioner, and may not participate as a subcontractor in any Augusta contracts. The contractor certifies that this is not a city contract, and agrees to hold the subcontractor harmless from any liability arising from violations of the city of Augusta's prohibition against improper compensation for a commissioner arising out of this contract."

jwilliams 03/03/13 - 07:34 am
Hello Little Lamb, to answer

Hello Little Lamb, to answer your question, the “GREAT” man that stated in this article that he is not in favor of “lambasting his colleagues.” “It’s unfortunate,” he said. “It was an ethics violation, not a crime. It’s time to move on,” owns a LLC CONSTRUCTION BUSINESS. Go figure.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/03/13 - 10:39 am

Thanks, jwilliams. Did he get any action subcontracting on the TEE Center, parking deck, sheriff's training facility, sheriff's administration office, Marble Palace renovation, or any other city business?

404Law 03/03/13 - 11:24 am
How elected officials in small cities game the system...101

An elected official is a "consultant" for an LLC that subcontracts with a company awarded the contract from local or state governments. In most cases, the LLC (subcontractor) is listed under a registered agents name; so, it would be a fruitless search to identify / match the elected official's name with the name of any entity associated with government contracts. If the relationship is ever discovered, then the elected official will try to protect themselves by stating they were unaware that the subcontractor that sought his/her consultant services was doing business with local or state governments. Hence, only thinking they deserve a slap on the wrist for this small "ethics" oversight, and that we should "move on."

Another way is the LLC's executive officer(s) (e.g., president) who has an awarded contract from the city can draw a salary and a dividend. The exec's dividend is treated as a profit (usually up to 60%) - and this is what is sometimes passed to the elected official or "consultant" in the form of an "under-the-table" cash payment. Off the books.

These are just two scenarios....there, of course, are many more schemes that small town officials use to game the contracting system.

Elected officials have to file taxes though...hence, this is why tax returns for candidates of big time elections are requested by media. Local elected officials don't have that concern. Besides, media in small town USA are often too sleepy or in bed with the contractors anyway. Otherwise, how else would they stay afloat in a city with high illiteracy rates?!?

Jane18 03/03/13 - 11:34 am

Hmmmmmmmm........, everyone has them, BUT, the problem comes when they do NOT have the 'morals' to back up their so-called ethics!

Lee Benedict
Lee Benedict 03/03/13 - 11:57 am

You can thank the voters and those too lazy and/or ignorant to research candidates and then vote. Just look at the voter turnout and then compare it to the near-90% turnout in Iraq where those going to vote had to endure gunfire.

You can thank those who refuse to speak their mind and tell the truth because it will upset the machine and the good ol' boys.

You can thank those who would make great candidates and then great elected officials for not running for office because of the "I can't win" syndrome.

You can thank those who vote for candidates just because of gender and/or skin color.

At the end of the day, these commissioners are just being who they are, and until the people stand up and with a collective voice tell them that their nonsense will not be tolerated and then vote their butts out, this will continue.

fatboyhog 03/03/13 - 12:18 pm
Quote of the year

"They looked to their commissioners, but they were too busy watching NASCAR because they heard it had something to do with race." That is the funniest thing I've read in a long, long time. Unfortunately, it's probably the truth.

Darby 03/03/13 - 12:25 pm
"Jackson pulled the race card first."....

But Momma, Tommy hit me first..... He started it!

Shortcomment 03/03/13 - 12:47 pm
Downtown Commissioners Vs. The County Commissioners

It does not take long for any honest reader of the facts to
quickly,if only privately, surmise the prolong rants of the Downtown
Commissioners are Bovis Stercus and are solely for political, and not ethical reasons.

404Law 03/03/13 - 01:26 pm
I disagree somewhat, Dichotomy...

Think about it. Every year, we have to hear from the City Administrator et al. how our City is so strapped for funds. And, every year, we have to hear from select Commissioners that one way to save our City money is to privatize important services.

Well, if I were Commissioner slash Consultant in small town USA, then I would be for privatization too, in large part, because I know that my vote as Commissioner to contract, privatize, or to out-source a specific City service to "Company X" is the same company that subcontracts an LLC for which I am affiliated to provide consultation services. The consultant services that Commissioners provide for these subcontractors are usually "bovis stercus", such as being a liaison between the company and the community, or to read a document to make sure they are compliant. Most of the time, the Commissioner slash consultant does nothing at all (i.e., payment for vote).

So, my point of disagreement is quite basic. You are comparing apples to oranges. Denying the contracting or outsourcing of City services due to whatever (ignorance, principle, or will) is very different from benefiting personally from the contracting or outsourcing of City services.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 03/04/13 - 11:34 am

Judges will always tell you ignorance of the law is not excuse. Ignorance of the Ethics rules is no excuse either. Excuse me, but isn't there some training that goes along with assuming the office, particularly on ethics?

SemperParatus 03/04/13 - 12:00 pm
You're outta here!

Folks, lets be sure to keep Grady Smith and Nathan Deal in our thoughts and prayers. Think how they have screwed us and pray that we can defeat them in the next election! And the same goes for any other politicians that don't want to play by the rules!

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