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.