Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Results of Augusta commissioners' censure still unclear

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What was gained by the Augusta Commission’s censure of Commissioners Wayne Guilfoyle, Joe Jackson and Grady Smith for violating the city code, I couldn’t say. I could say it went on way too long.

Censure was the only punishment the code authorized commissioners to give – censure or reprimand, censure being “a more formal action of a reprimand,” according to the city’s General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie. He came in for some reprimanding himself at the almost two-hour trial, during which the accused trio confessed and apologized for doing business with the city.

As you probably know, but I have to tell you anyway because it’s good journalism, Smith’s plumbing and air-conditioning business has been paid for subcontract work on a city utilities project at Fort Gordon. Guil­foyle’s tile business was paid for subcontracting for a general contractor at Augusta Regional Airport. And Jackson’s company, Kirby Locksmith, did work for an undercover sheriff’s operation and on the sheriff’s training range from 2008-10.

During their 15 minutes of infamy, Commissioner Bill Lockett asked each one to say on the record that they had no other business with the city that hadn’t come to light.

“Please let us know today, because if you don’t we’ll be right back here again,” he said.

Commissioner Alvin Mason asked the guilty parties to agree not to do business with the city for two years after leaving office. Guilfoyle and Jackson agreed, but Smith had no intention of promising that.

Smith also rejected Mason’s request that he get out of the current subcontract at Fort Gordon. Mayor Deke Copenhaver suggested Smith take three days to come into compliance with city code, then come back to be censured.

“I’m not going to walk off the job,” Smith said later.

COMING DOWN HARD ABOUT A HARD DRIVE: The first 30 minutes were spent in part with commissioners Marion Williams and Lockett badgering MacKenzie about why he chose the section of the code that dealt with censuring or reprimanding for ethics violations rather that a section dealing with procurement.

Williams told MacKenzie he couldn’t trust what he was saying.

“The code you cited to me is really nothing. … Had it been me and the history of this city … You act like this is nothing,” Williams said. “Calvin Holland got censured because he asked for Fred Russell’s hard drive. He didn’t get it. I think this is a serious offense.”

“If you’re going to censure somebody for asking for a hard drive, do you think that’s the same thing as being elected and doing business in the city you’re elected?” Williams later asked. “Anybody think that’s the same thing? I’m in the wrong world. I’m not in the wrong room.”

THE BITTER AFTERMATH: Afterward, Jackson said he thought the commission censured them because of Holland’s censure.

“I think it’s retaliation,” Jackson said. “From what I hear, the black commissioners were catching hell from their black ministers association. Several commissioners were doing theatrics.

“I really don’t care about the censure. I don’t plan to run for office in this county anymore. They don’t know how to raise money. All they know how to do is raise taxes. On Broad Street, all it takes is another liquor-license tax, a rain tax on top of their property taxes, and they’ll go out of business. And everybody’s screaming for a raise.”

Smith said the censures were racially motivated and that he regrets ever asking MacKenzie to draft a proposed code change.

“I went to talk to the attorney about doing what the state does on contracts,” he said. “I wish I’d never brought anything up. It’s racial. I found out reaching across the aisle doesn’t work, and it’s turned my attitude about how this county is run. I don’t know anything about Calvin Holland. I feel my reputation has been damaged. People say, ‘Grady, what are you trying to do?’ I’m disappointed I’m being branded as some kind of thief.”

Smith referred bitterly to the city having to reimburse $292,128 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last year because East Augusta Community Development Corp., a charity closely associated with then-Commissioner J.R. Hatney, did not build the houses it received the money for.

“I’m mad because I tried to do what’s right,” Smith said. “Where did $300,000 go for the Sand Bar Ferry project? All the money got spent, and none of the buildings got put up. Did you see Alvin or Lockett say anything? Did you hear Corey Johnson ask anything about where the money went? “

CHASING DOWN RUMORS: I called former Commis­sioner Joe Bowles to ask whether he’s going to run for mayor next year, and the conversation turned to the censure hearing. He said he watched every minute on video and thought the commissioners did what was necessary, though Williams and Lockett were “out for blood.”

“I feel sorry for Wayne and Joe because Wayne had been on a subcontract before he went on the commission and Joe had ceased doing business with the city two years ago,” he said. “Grady. I just don’t think he gets it. He’s so honest, but it’s not about him. It’s about other contractors and the appearance.”

As for whether he plans to run for mayor, Bowles said if the two who have announced so far – state Sen. Hardie Davis and Johnson – are the only ones in the race, he’d have to run.

“But I have a feeling Alvin Mason is going to run, and I would hope that he does. I might not always agree with him, but he’s always been 100 percent honest with me.”

THE TEACHER’S LEARNED A LESSON: Linda Schrenko, the former state school superintendent and Columbia County teacher who was sentenced to prison in 2006 for embezzling federal money from the state Department of Education while in office, was released from federal prison to a halfway house last week.

I didn’t know Schrenko that well, but I liked her because she was an animal lover and supported the effort to get rid of the gas chamber as a way of killing unwanted animals at Rich­mond County Animal Control. She also rescued and fostered hounds, which might be the reason she had an affair with her deputy superintendent, Merle Temple, who also went to prison but is out now.

Temple was supposed to receive a break on his sentence by cooperating with the government, but the deal fell through after Schrenko gave prosecutors taped phone conversations in which he said he’d lie to protect her.

Temple has written a book, A Ghostly Shade of Pale, which is probably the shade he turned when he heard Schrenko had ratted him out.

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Riverman1
82060
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Riverman1 03/09/13 - 08:48 pm
8
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Bowles Supports Mason for Mayor

The most interesting slice of the column is Joe Bowles supports Alvin Mason for mayor.

But wasn't THIS so Deke like: "Mayor Deke Copenhaver suggested Smith take three days to come into compliance with city code, then come back to be censured."

404Law
226
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404Law 03/09/13 - 09:43 pm
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12
African American Commissioners...

Can't catch a break with this paper. AC may as well stand for All Caucasian, All the time. Funny how you can search the AC archives and still find articles from 2007 on Calvin Holland's censure. But, when you search the AC archives for information about last week's censure of the Dukes of Hazard (Jackson, Smith, and Guilfoyle), the AC search yields zero results. For instance, just type in "Grady Smith censure," or "Jackson censure," et cetera. Nope. Nothing. Nadda. You guys have no journalistic integrity at all. Comment posted 8:30PM, March 9. Just in case you get wise.

just an opinion
2478
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just an opinion 03/09/13 - 10:44 pm
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Marion Williams

So Reverend Williams, last time you were on the commission, you received $230,000 for your church the was valued at $51,500 by the county and had a membership of 35 people. What happened to that money? It PAYS to be a commissioner doesn't it Reverend? And you are criticizing those who actually provided goods and services and WORKED for the money. A word that YOU are probably not very familiar with!

Little Lamb
45202
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Little Lamb 03/10/13 - 01:12 am
5
1
I see you, and I raise you ten. . .

Grady Smith accepted the censure, then vowed he would continue to do business with the city. Ethics laws, like sunshine laws, are toothless.

Connor Threlkeld
711
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Connor Threlkeld 03/10/13 - 02:02 am
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404Law, the story you

404Law, the story you reference, along with video and background on the topic, is available here:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government/2013-03-05/commission-censu...

We had a significant search outage a few days ago, and there does now appear to be an issue with our search system not indexing recent stories, I'll have to contact our technical team about that. The story can still be found through our:

Government section:
http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government

Augusta Commission Topic Page:
http://chronicle.augusta.com/topics/government/augusta-richmond-county-c...

seenitB4
85048
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seenitB4 03/10/13 - 07:31 am
5
1
OOOh that was good Sylvia....funnie

She also rescued and fostered hounds, which might be the reason she had an affair with her deputy superintendent, Merle Temple, who also went to prison but is out now.

Riverman1
82060
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Riverman1 03/10/13 - 08:11 am
7
2
Why Joe Bowles Supports Alvin Mason

Joe is a pretty smart cookie and I think I know why he supports Alvin Mason for mayor. Mason can beat the snot out of anyone on the Commission and has enough of an edgy side that he just may do it. We need a little of the yang after our yin with Mr. Softie, Deke.

I can hear Mayor Mason, "Abstain on me one more time and you better hope Commissioners have dental insurance."

CobaltGeorge
154731
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CobaltGeorge 03/10/13 - 08:52 am
1
1
RM

I don't have the knowledge you have on the "Augusta" world, so I will never make judgement comments. Wish I had though.

dichotomy
31960
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dichotomy 03/10/13 - 11:41 am
4
1
"I found out reaching across

"I found out reaching across the aisle doesn’t work, and it’s turned my attitude about how this county is run."

Well well well. Welcome to South Richmond County Grady. District 8, one of the districts you are supposed to be representing, has been feeling that way the whole time you've been down there reaching across the aisle WITH OUR MONEY.

You cannot reach across the aisle to people who have NEVER proposed a significant plan for ANYTHING and whose primary motivations are retribution, revenge, and retaliation.

I am not saying that Grady Smith did not violate the ethics rules. I am sure he knew what he was doing was questionable.....and he did a LOT of it. I still have reservations about whether Guilfoyle violated anything since he bid his project before he was a commissioner. And Jackson...well, it was a miniscule violation and mostly because the county came to his place of business wanting work done. And, he had already stopped accepting their business two years ago.

But I think Grady learned a least one good lesson from this.....and it wasn't about doing business with the county. It was about kowtowing and boot licking and the fact that they don't pay off. Unfortunately it was too late for his constituents.

Sweet son
10033
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Sweet son 03/10/13 - 01:38 pm
5
0
"What were you thinking?" Jay Leno to Hugh Grant

Remember when he got arrested for picking up the hooker on Sunset Blvd? I guess I would like to ask Smith, Guilfoyle and Jackson the same question regarding running for a seat on the county commission. Might have had the mind set of a young police officer who thinks he can make a difference! They have quickly learned that they don't have a chance when the are ganged up on by the black commssioners. It was a nice dream on their parts but I suspect that they will struggle until their terms expire. I do wish them luck!

Shortcomment
1158
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Shortcomment 03/10/13 - 02:21 pm
3
1
Sooner or later

The idea of South Side De-Consolidation will catch fire.

If for no other reason than to see an honest accounting on how
District 8's, $9.7 Million, in collected property taxes are spent and where.

404Law
226
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404Law 03/10/13 - 02:47 pm
0
8
Aw shucks, Connor...

I have been working so hard the past several years to find evidence for my conspiracy theory that the AC is biased against African American Commissioners. The 'search outage" scenario you present is plausible indeed. Darn it - now I am forced to approach this from a different angle.

Let's see...Hmm...I wonder if the print media coverage of African American Commissioners the past several years would be different if the beat reporters AND AC editorial staff actually reflected the demographics of the community?

You know, it is difficult to write about politics within a community when your only exposure to the community and the people who represent the community is in your car with the windows rolled up traveling down Wrightsboro Road. Or, when you are an arm lengths distance from them with a tape recorder attached to their lips.

I wonder if you had a critical ratio of staff in the newsroom who were more reflective of the demographics of the Augusta community for which you write, if the print media coverage would be the same?

Personally, I don't blame you for your media coverage. You simply don't know any better because your exposure to the community and the people who represent it always has been at arms length. Sylvia, the same thing.

Sure, Sylvia, you attend the occasional "who's who in Augusta" gala with them; you may shuck and jive with them at meetings; and, you may even attend a church service with them from time to time - you know, a funeral every year or so. But, maybe just maybe, you would benefit from spending a week attached to the hip of an African American Commissioner -- attending events; taking calls from constituents; preparing for meetings; fielding calls from the media; traveling to meet constituents in the Districts to solve unique problems; et cetera.

You see, I wonder if then, you and the AC editorial staff would have a greater appreciation for what these communities are really about, and perhaps just as importantly, what these African American Commissioners stand for.

Otherwise, you will continue to "ride the tour bus" in your own beloved City, with your windows up and your microphone on and your camera rolling - all the time not really knowing what you are observing or writing (about).

Again, I don't blame you. I understand that you have had a set of limited experiences during your decades in the City. I only can hope that you and the AC editorial staff will realize that what you write matters. That you, not the African American Commissioners, are standing in the way of this City making good on its promises. Help to build this city, rather than trying to besmirch African American Commissioners who mean so much to so many people. (And, then conveniently experience search outages that make inaccessible the webpage articles that describe the unethical behaviors of White Commissioners).

Yes, the conspiracy theory is back on folks. :-) Cheers

Dixieman
14215
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Dixieman 03/10/13 - 03:23 pm
6
1
CAN I HAVE MY POINTS BACK?

Censure, censure...lessee...
1. Fined? Nope.
2. Jail time? Nope.
3. Have to pay back any of the money you got in violation of the rules? Nope.
4. Kicked out of office? Nope.
5. Disqualified from running again? Nope.
6. Words of criticism on a piece of paper? Well, yeah, you gotta have that.

Hey - this is MY kind of penalty!! Next time I screw up I will ask my boss or girlfriend to censure me. Or does this only work if you are a politician?

GnipGnop
11816
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GnipGnop 03/10/13 - 03:33 pm
4
2
Alvin Mason for mayor?

Would he even show up for the meetings? Also, so tired of hearing about the race card being played. It's been played so much it doesn't even hold any weight. You have had a black mayor now you have a black sheriff but yes the white press is against all the blacks. Pathetic...also ask Marion Williams about his son in law buying property right by where he was proposing a drag strip and even incorporating a business called drag snacks before it was even brought before the commission. The only thing the black commissioners have shown is that they can be just as racist and crooked as the white establishment that used to run the city...

404Law
226
Points
404Law 03/10/13 - 04:33 pm
0
8
Good job Gnip Gnop

Weird. You actually provide support for my point about the AC's lack of diversity where it matters. The fact that "we (not the city of Augusta) have had a black mayor and we (not Augusta / Richmond Co) have a black sheriff" has absolutely nothing to do with the composition of the AC newsroom or the composition of a news article. My point is that I wish it did. The lack of diversity in places where it matters at the AC is what I attribute to the overwhelming bias in reporting. A 3rd grader could pick up the bias in these articles. Can you?

GnipGnop
11816
Points
GnipGnop 03/10/13 - 10:56 pm
4
0
In the op ed pieces? Of course!!!

IT'S THE OPINION PART OF THE PAPER!! What do you think Charles Walker said about white people? Or the muslim paper that muslims hand out? Of course papers are one sided because so are people...the blacks stick with blacks and the whites stick with whites. Only when a blackmail vote is needed do they cross sides....BTW now that Augusta is majority black doesn't that make white owned business the minority? Should they get preferential treatment in the bidding process now?

404Law
226
Points
404Law 03/10/13 - 11:39 pm
0
4
Yes, Gnip Gnop...

You are right. Soooo...

Since "white folk" are the minority in Augusta, let us give "white folk" the preferential treatment that the "blacks" have enjoyed since the end of Reconstruction.

Let us give the "white folk" 16.8% unemployment and "blacks" less than 7%.

Let us give the "white women" .70 cents to the dollar of what "black women" earn.

Let us give "white folks" health disparities and unequal access to healthcare.

Let us give "white folk" subprime loans.

Let us build payday loan centers to prey on "white folk" in their own communities.

Let us turn back the hands of time and apply unfair housing and lending practices against "white folks", so that blacks can erase the wealth gaps due primarily to your parent's home ownership in the late 1960s and 70s.

Let us give the "white folk" long lines in their Districts as they wait to cast their ballots.

Let us gerrymander districts and give the "white folk" their own district, and "blacks" the other five, six, or seven districts.

And, yes Gnip Gnop, just like "we so-called blacks" have the "black muz-lims" who handout "the black muz-lim newspapers" let us give you the "white folk" the Tea Party. Oops, already done!

Gnip Gnop, don't waste your time going toe-to-toe with me. I have bigger fish to fry. Say cheese :-)

GnipGnop
11816
Points
GnipGnop 03/11/13 - 08:56 am
3
0
The TEA party is about lower taxes...

Not racism...I don't seem to recall white on white crime being a issue in our communities and I certainly don't see drug infested white apartment complexes with men standing outside drinking 40's all day. You keep blaming whitie but in reality the real reason the problems exist is the giverment attitude. I knew plenty of black people that owned their own homes and worked hard for what they had. It's not where you come from but where you go. Not sure where long lines in districts mean anything. I have stood in long lines everytime I ever voted. Never saw any white people standing outside intimidating voters though....hmmmm black panthers? You should try losing that huge chip on your shoulder and quit blaming one race for your problems and get your people to pull up their boot straps instead of holding out their hand for giverment help. You do realize that the amount of people paying into the system is now lower than the amount of people taking from it. Must be old whitie again keeping the black man down. Give me a break...

Blasphemy
90
Points
Blasphemy 03/11/13 - 10:42 pm
1
0
404LAW

With nothing else to offer "Mr. LAW" clearly violates every condition of acceptable comments except one. So far, he has not been obscene, except in the depth of his prejudice.

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