Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Amnesia rampant in Washington, not any better here

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I don’t know what the world’s coming to. The federal government is tapping our phones and snooping into our e-mail. The IRS is targeting conservatives for harassment and spending millions on conferences, fake Star Trek videos and line dancing lessons while President Obama is just as surprised as we are when he reads all about it in the newspaper.

In fact, nobody in Washington knows anything. Everybody up there seems to have amnesia. FBI Direc­tor Robert Mueller couldn’t say how many agents are working on the investigation into the IRS scandal or who’s leading it. Attorney General Eric Holder can’t remember what he tells Congress from one day to the next.

On the local scene, it’s not much better. They don’t know anything either.

For example, during an Augusta Commission committee meeting, an item called for authorizing Turner Construction Co. to award $2,021,703 for Bid Package No. 6 for Marble Palace renovations. Before the vote could be taken, Com­mis­sioner Marion Wil­liams said he had a comment.

“Somebody needs to explain to me what Bid Pack­age No. 6 means,” he said

To summarize Adminis­trator Fred Russell’s circumlocution on the matter, bid packages for such things as demolition save time and money.

Williams wasn’t satisfied.

“I guess my question would be, ‘How much have we spent so far with them if we’re on No. 6?’ ” he said. “If this is the sixth bid package, how much is the total, roughly. It ain’t got to be exact, but …”

“I can’t give you that number, but it’s all within the budgeted price of what that would be,” Russell replied. “I don’t know the specific number to add those together. I’m sorry.”

“Any of the commissioners know?” Williams asked. “Nobody knows?”

“Do you have that number?” Russell asked For­rest White, of Heery In­ter­national, the construction management firm overseeing the city’s sales-tax projects.

White began rifling through papers.

“Is that a no?” Williams asked.

He then turned to Deputy Administrator Tameka Allen. “Ms. Allen, do you know? Ms. Allen?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you know?”

“We’ll have to get that for you, sir,” Russell said, coming to the rescue. “We can’t put our finger on the total number at the moment.”

“It’s … uh, in here as … uh, yes, as …” White said, still searching.

And so it went, with Rus­sell and White telling Williams he could add up the items in Exhibit G to get the total.

“But we don’t know how much it cost so far,” Wil­liams said. “I figured it’s in the budget. It’s already budgeted, but I didn’t know how much that is that’s budgeted.”

THE DEVIL IS ALWAYS IN THE DETAILS: All in all, it wasn’t a good day for White and Heery’s subcontractors, Gallop and Associates and Dukes, Edwards and Dukes, nor for supervisor Michele Brown-Rall.

Commissioners bored in with questions about higher-than-standard fees the city has been paying Heery for the subcontractors, contributions to commissioners and exactly what Gallop does as community liaison.

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle wanted to know why Heery billed the city for the subcontractors’ work as though they were regular employees. White said that was how the contract was set up.

Guilfoyle asked White to “reach out” to his superior for a refund on the subcontractors’ pay. White complied, turning the microphone over to Brown-Rall, who’d come to the meeting from Atlanta. She said Heery was a professional service contractor and that Gal­lop and Dukes, Edwards and Dukes were subcontractors to them, and their rates were the same as the Heery team rates as far as the Consumer Price Index.

“I beg to differ with you on that because an employee and a subcontractor are two different categories, especially under IRS guidelines,” Guilfoyle said. “So you’re charging us for these two vendors or contractors as a employee. You take taxes out, pay workers’ comp or benefits in time with vacation or whatever.

“I didn’t see anything written in the contract where they would be held as an employee on a multiplier table,” he added. “Can you get me that because if it’s not in there, it’s not in there.”

SPREADING FUNKY FIGURES: Later, White gave commissioners a spreadsheet showing hourly billing rates for the Heery team, which indicated Gallop’s hourly rate had grown from $65 in 2003 to $227.72 this year, with a proposed increase to $235.42 in 2015.

When Guilfoyle asked about the increases, White said Gallop made $175 an hour and that the spreadsheet was wrong.

“Why did you give it to us then?” Guilfoyle asked.

ISN’T THERE SOMEONE ALREADY ON THE CITY PAYROLL WHO’S SUPPOSED TO DO THIS? You almost had to feel sorry for Butch Gallop, the way Williams hammered away at him.

“What do you actually do?” Williams asked.

“Actually, I participate in the local participation aspect of it,” Gallop replied. “I set up workshops, seminars, for the community.”

“Wait, wait, wait!” Williams said. “You say you participate in participating. Say it again. You participate in the local community.”

“I do those things for Heery International,” Gal­lop said. “I set the meetings. I go out and get vendors to make sure that we maximize. I get people pre-qualified to make sure they participate in the projects, which is extremely important.”

“Is that documented?” Williams asked.

“Yes, it is. I can get you my scope of services,” Gallop replied.

“I’d like to have a list of those vendors that you got pre-qualified,” Williams said.

SHOULD HE HAVE TAKEN THE FIFTH? Commissioner Donnie Smith, the chairman of the commission’s ethics subcommittee, asked White about Heery’s donations to commissioners.

“What I would like to know from Heery is have you filed either with the clerk of the commission or with the Georgia Transparency Ethics Commission any donations you have made to any member of this body? Have you followed the law?” Smith asked.

(It’s not an either/or question. The city’s ethics ordinance calls for gifts of more than $100 and monetary contributions to be reported to the commission clerk by the donor and the recipient, but nobody has reported anything since the ordinance was adopted in 1999.)

“We did donations,” White said. “Yes, we have. We have not given any gifts. We have offered courtesy tickets (to Braves games and Atlanta Falcons skyboxes) just as anybody else does as a business practice, but as far as any out-and-out gifts, we have not done that.”

White said Heery had filed proper reports of donations, but Augusta Chronicle Staff Writer Susan McCord’s search of the Georgia Govern­ment Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission database showed no one employed by Heery, Gallop or Dukes has ever reported making a campaign contribution to an Augusta official.

“I just wanted you to be on the record that you have followed the rules,” Smith said.

NOTHING FISHY HERE, LOCKETT SAYS: The discussion moved Commissioner Bill Lockett to thank Heery for a $1,000 donation to his 2009 campaign.

“The press went so far as to say, ‘This guy received money from Heery, and he didn’t even have opposition,’” Lockett said.

But nobody reported that he’d mortgaged his house to fund his campaign and had finally paid the debt off this year. He also thanked Brown-Rall for the “$7 and some cents dinner” the newspaper reported she bought him at Red Lobster.

“If necessary, for me to stay out of the media, I will reimburse you,” Lockett said.

“You need any ball tickets?” quipped Commis­sioner Grady Smith.

SIGNS OF A GREAT BIG EGO: If it’s not against the law for Sheriff Richard Roundtree to promote himself by having his name put on Richmond County police vehicles, it ought to be. And what about when he runs for re-election and the police get called to a polling place? State law prohibits campaign signs within 150 feet of voting precincts, so Roundtree will have shot himself in the foot.

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fishman960
1446
Points
fishman960 06/15/13 - 08:24 pm
17
0
Greed

I am so #%&$ tired of all this corruption. Everyone is out to "get theirs". Even 'ol Marion was looking to make a dollar with his racetrack plan. The moral decay of America will bring us to our knees soon.
In other news, Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there!

LillyfromtheMills
13309
Points
LillyfromtheMills 06/15/13 - 08:35 pm
13
4
Nothing fishey here

It all stinks! And that the sheriff has put his name on 20 cars, no one knows which one he is in! I have never seen a man with such an ego - Grateful Mother...

Little Lamb
46068
Points
Little Lamb 06/15/13 - 08:35 pm
14
1
Pitiful

Now that the questions have been asked and not answered, the matter is considered closed. There will be no changes made. Heery International is Fred Russell's security blanket, his ticket to plausible deniability. We will not change this horse in mid-stream, because we are always in mid-stream.

fishman960
1446
Points
fishman960 06/15/13 - 08:44 pm
13
4
Roundtree

He must have learned from Ed McIntyre. What a gross display of ego and power. I'm certain NONE of the other candidates would have EVER considered placing their name in the Sheriffs decal, or anywhere else publicly displayed.
How utterly disgusting!

LillyfromtheMills
13309
Points
LillyfromtheMills 06/15/13 - 08:49 pm
15
1
We can't fix the politics in Augusta

How can we fix the politics in Washington when we can't convince our own town of Augusta - we all saw Az , etc screw us - a pattern always repeated. The city managers are a joke - Marion was a joke but at least he's asking the questions

internationallyunknown
4211
Points
internationallyunknown 06/15/13 - 08:58 pm
8
9
Play w/ fire...

What's the big deal...it's just a name. You guys are ALREADY talking re-election...dang!

Maybe the city should have just given him the raise....

fishman960
1446
Points
fishman960 06/15/13 - 09:02 pm
11
3
?

I thought he did get the raise.

Little Lamb
46068
Points
Little Lamb 06/15/13 - 09:03 pm
9
4
Did they give him the raise . . .

. . . or did he just take it?

Little Lamb
46068
Points
Little Lamb 06/15/13 - 09:09 pm
10
1
Crazy

From Sylvia's story:

Later, White gave commissioners a spreadsheet showing hourly billing rates for the Heery team, which indicated Gallop’s hourly rate had grown from $65 in 2003 to $227.72 this year, with a proposed increase to $235.42 in 2015. When Guilfoyle asked about the increases, White said Gallop made $175 an hour and that the spreadsheet was wrong. “Why did you give it to us then?” Guilfoyle asked.

Would it be too much to expect Sylvia Cooper to complete the train of thought and tell us readers what answer White gave to Guilfoyle's question?

rt7171
73
Points
rt7171 06/15/13 - 09:39 pm
13
3
Sylvia stirs it and it's up

Sylvia stirs it and it's up to you to you sort out from whom the smell comes from.

Gage Creed
17276
Points
Gage Creed 06/15/13 - 09:55 pm
10
0
You can't perfume a hog....

You can't perfume a hog.... Lewis Grizzard

Little Lamb
46068
Points
Little Lamb 06/15/13 - 11:05 pm
10
1
Herein lies the problem

From the story:

“I can’t give you that number, but it’s all within the budgeted price of what that would be,” City Administrator Fred Russell replied. “I don’t know the specific number to add those together. I’m sorry.”

That is the perfect answer. You could use that answer to take care of any question a commissioner would throw your way.

Brad Owens
4455
Points
Brad Owens 06/15/13 - 10:14 pm
16
0
AAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

“Wait, wait, wait!” Williams said. “You say you participate in participating. Say it again.”

gargoyle
17258
Points
gargoyle 06/15/13 - 10:53 pm
16
0
I cant believe I'm saying

I cant believe I'm saying this, Mr. Williams is Doing the job the Mayor should be doing. Bravo Marion way to shine a light in the dark corners.

KSL
130050
Points
KSL 06/15/13 - 11:02 pm
9
1
Countyman must be tied up or

Countyman must be tied up or out of town.

KSL
130050
Points
KSL 06/15/13 - 11:05 pm
6
1
But then it is Saturday

But then it is Saturday night.

dichotomy
33059
Points
dichotomy 06/15/13 - 11:30 pm
13
3
Roundtree is proving to be

Roundtree is proving to be the egomaniacal toad many of us suspected he would be.

If Grateful Mother feels the need to put his name on the patrol cars then he is a sick puppy.

Is Chief James going to stencil his name in gold on all of the fire trucks?

I wish Roundtree would concentrate a little harder on being a good sheriff instead of the first black sheriff. So far all we are getting is mediocre overpaid ego. At least he hasn't put spinners on the Tahoe....yet.

jwilliams
831
Points
jwilliams 06/15/13 - 11:57 pm
10
4
Taken from the article

Taken from the article 6/16/13; SIGNS OF A GREAT BIG EGO: If it’s not against the law for Sheriff Richard Roundtree to promote himself by having his name put on Richmond County police vehicles, it ought to be. And what about when he runs for re-election and the police get called to a polling place? State law prohibits campaign signs within 150 feet of voting precincts, so Roundtree will have shot himself in the foot.
Great point about the precincts. When Roundtree was asked by George Eskola if the citizens of ARC would think that by him placing his name on the sides of the ARC sheriff department vehicles (which belong to the citizens, I might add), if he had a large “EGO”, he said that the ones that had a problem with it would be “SMALLED MINDED.” Well sir, this “SMALL MINDED” individual “VOTED” for “YOU” but I can assure you of one thing, that won’t happen again. Speaking of “SMALL MINDED” it appears that would be you. Not only have you displayed a “SMALL MIND” in this process, you have also shown a lack of “FISICAL RESPONSIBILITY”. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think that Roundtree was elected Sheriff for life. This “SMALL MINDED” move by Roundtree is going to cost ARC taxpayers in the end, this being caused by a man that has a history of not paying his own taxes. It’s going to cost ARC taxpayers to add his name and its going to cost ARC taxpayers to delete his name; which obviously may be sooner than he expects. This money could have been spent on something much more worthwhile and valuable to the troops, such as the much needed protective vests that were identified as being needed by the Police officers, maybe Roundtree thinks that his name will stop a round. Let me add that Roundtree has done some good things as sheriff of ARC, but this is not one of them. I implore all of the “SMALL MINDED” people that voted for Roundtree to reevaluate your choice the next time “HE COMES AKNOCKING”.

fishman960
1446
Points
fishman960 06/16/13 - 12:00 am
8
4
Applause!

Well said jwilliams!

rational thought trumps emotion
2558
Points
rational thought trumps emotion 06/16/13 - 01:50 am
6
8
Such Pettiness…

We all know Sylvia does not like Roundtree, even though he is doing great things within the Sheriff’s Office. She fails to mention the updated logo was also used by Strength, with his name on it, towards the end of his administration. Maybe we should look into the expense of changing the letterhead and many other items this cost us. She fails to point out that this logo costs less than $10.00 each and also fails to mention that Sheriff Roundtree saved the taxpayers $2,000.00 per vehicle for the 30 new patrol cars compared to the 30 ordered last year, including the logo. Thanks Sheriff Roundtree for saving us $60,000.00 for the same number of vehicles complete with all police equipment and logos, I and many others who pay taxes here do appreciate that fact. Funny how Sylvia never looked into the fact that Sheriff Strength changed all of the logos from Sheriff’s Department to Sheriff’s Office on every car in the fleet, instead of just the new ones, because he preferred the word office. I guess things like that just didn't matter when Strength was in office. And, it would also be fair to report that if the name needed to be changed in the future, that the cost would be less than $2.00 each as an overlay so even if every car needed to be changed, it wouldn't even cost $1,000.00 so at the very least, the Sheriff saved us 59k this year!

Sheriff’s all across Georgia and the USA have their names on vehicles and you would be very hard pressed to find such negativity in articles over a petty matter such as this. Welcome to Augusta Sheriff. Here, we aren’t concerned that you are lowering crime, lowering traffic fatalities and raising employee morale with your new policies and procedures as well as greatly improving technology in the agency which is woefully behind. Instead, we prefer to discuss a sticker that costs less than $10.00. Give us a break Sylvia, stop being so petty or at least acknowledge you don’t like the fact he spent around $200.00 on stickers and still saved us $60,000.00 on the total vehicle package.

Riverman1
84152
Points
Riverman1 06/16/13 - 04:41 am
11
1
Strength's Name on Logo Too?

If Ronnie Strength also had his name on the logo on the cars, I don't see what the big deal is? At least it's not an Ed McIntyre deal with huge billboards with his picture and name as you entered the city when he was mayor. Heh.

Riverman1
84152
Points
Riverman1 06/16/13 - 04:55 am
12
0
Carrying Politicians Around in Pockets Like Nickles and Dimes

As with many things, heh, I was slow to see the problems with Fred Russell if anyone remembers. I took up for him a lot. Now I see his Rasputin manipulation and why he has the support of the majority of the Commission. He greases the greasers that pass the rewards to Commissioners. Watch him walk around in his penguin style at Commission meetings, whispering to individuals with total disregard for protocol and you can see his plotting control at work. Heery follows a plan of controlling public officials, using Russell to help, that’s reminiscent of Marlon Brando in a certain movie.

obkad
222
Points
obkad 06/16/13 - 07:40 am
3
6
Amnesia

If Mr. Williams is questioning what bid package number 6 is,, he obviously did not have a problem with bid packages 1 thru 5 did he??? Mr. Williams and his band of less than stiller thinkers are in a witch hunt again to oust Heery international. In 6 months Heery will be out along with all the other folks who have been working for the city for several years. Heery International claims to use local talent, but on big project out of town architects, engineers and contractors seem to foot the bill. Mr. Williams and his merry men have someone in the wings waiting to jump at the opportunity to replace Heery, and I can assure you Mr. Williams has connections in some form or fashion with them. I feel sorry for the Architect and engineers already selected for the marble palace upgrade, they are going to need all the prayers they can get as this project will be one huge "race track" with King Marion leading the charge....As far as Mr Roundtree goes.. you asked for it Augusta, so live with it.....

seenitB4
87396
Points
seenitB4 06/16/13 - 07:41 am
6
2
Going against the grain...why not!.

I have said this B4 & I will say it again...

If Roundtree can clean up Richmond county ..I don't care if he blasts his name all over the dang car....others in other states do it....look how many signs you see all over the place with names of elected officials...

jwilliams
831
Points
jwilliams 06/16/13 - 07:52 am
5
4
Could rational thought trumps

Could rational thought trumps emotions prove their statements with “ACTUAL” facts and documentation or reference points over “RATIONAL THOUGHT”? Because until you can’t it’s just “YOUR” opinion.
From the article. She fails to mention the updated logo was also used by Strength, with his name on it, towards the end of his administration. Was his name on the cars? Sheriff’s all across Georgia and the USA have their names on vehicles and you would be very hard pressed to find such negativity in articles over a petty matter such as this. Could you please provide “ACTUAL” documentation or reference points that can prove this? Because if the “SMALL MINDED” people are misinformed, please provide us with clarity.

obkad
222
Points
obkad 06/16/13 - 07:56 am
5
2
contractors

If I were Ms Cooper I would start investigating why the same contractors keep getting the same construction jobs with the same engineers and suppliers? something fishy here also

rational thought trumps emotion
2558
Points
rational thought trumps emotion 06/16/13 - 11:15 am
3
5
Jwilliams

If you worked at the Sheriff's Office or paid attention several years ago, you would have seen when ALL of the cars logos were changed from Sheriff's Department to Sheriff's Office. Many thought it to be a waste of money but it is what Strength wanted and you sure didn't read about it here or hear it on the news. As for the new Sheriff's logo, if you worked for the Sheriff's Office last year, you would have seen the new logo in use with Sheriff Strengths name although it was not placed on the cars and I never said it was as its use just started last year and he already knew he was leaving the agency. Everything else around there like letterhead, envelopes, challenge coins, forms, etc. had to be changed but in reality all of that is just like the cars, such a trivial amount it's not even worth the discussion and I saw no problem with Strength having his name on the logo or any of those items nor do I see a problem with Roundtree doing the same. What I do know (as reported by news channel 6) is that Sheriff Roundtree saved this county $60,000.00 on this year’s 30 new vehicles compared to those purchased last year, including all of the police equipment and the logos.

As for proving other agencies have the Sheriff’s Name on their logos, on cars, and on many other items, I along with most in law enforcement have seen it for years and see it often at meetings with police from around the state and country.

And, if you wish to disprove or verify any of the information stated then fill out some open records requests and send them all over the state. Afterwards, at least thank our Sheriff for saving us $60,000.00 on vehicles this year compared to last year.

fishman960
1446
Points
fishman960 06/16/13 - 11:50 am
3
2
RTTE

I could care less if Roundtree saved the county 6 million dollars. The man has an ego the size of Georgia. I did not vote for him, I will never support him and I will never endorse him. It is my right to feel about another however I choose, whether it is right or wrong.
I am but one voice but my voice will be heard.

Sweet son
10415
Points
Sweet son 06/16/13 - 02:26 pm
3
1
I move the commission make a resolution that forbids

Roundtree from putting his name on "our" patrol vehicles.

Also, I don't and didn't care for Marion Williams because he is not squeaky clean himself but wasn't it dandy that he made the contractors and Fred and Tameka squirm. It was especially good when he basically pointed out that Butch Gallop had a position and not a job! LOL! There are too many on the government payrolls that do nothing. They simply have positions and not jobs!

OtherSideOfTheMoon
172
Points
OtherSideOfTheMoon 06/16/13 - 03:27 pm
5
0
Egos and conflicts of

Egos and conflicts of interest seem to make the news on a regular basis in our county. When I read the above article and saw that Commissioner Donnie Smith is in charge of "ethics", something dawned on me. Smith is a supervisor full time with the Georgia Highway Patrol and he manages twenty or more highway patrol stations and troopers between Grovetown, Milledgeville and Madison. I'm told that the job of Richmond County commissioner is a part time one but what are the odds that Smith is conducting at least some Richmond County business while on duty wearing a Georgia Highway Patrol uniform? I would say they are pretty good but one will never know for sure. He drives an unmarked state automobile and is constantly driving within his district. The truth is, those of us paying taxes in Richmond County are probably getting a good deal. But how would you feel if you lived and paid taxes in Baldwin, Columbia or Morgan Counties and you found out your highway patrol supervisor's mind was somewhere other than on state business? Could this be an ethics issue for the ethics chairman? Perhaps.

With respect to the Richard Roundtree decals that are being applied to patrol cars - these could be considered campaign materials and as such, should be paid for from his campaign fund. Better yet, they really don't belong on OUR vehicles. He has business cards for the purpose of getting his name out.

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