Sylvia CooperCity 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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allhans 06/16/13 - 07:00 pm
I did hear several days ago a

I did hear several days ago a deputy who will be driving one of the Roundtree cars mention it and that was not a smile on his face.

fatboyhog 06/16/13 - 09:07 pm

I can verify what Rational Thought said about the former Sheriff. While this is not a knock on the former Sheriff, he decided that the Sheriff's Department needed to be changed to the Sheriff's Office. That meant new door decals, new letterhead, new business cards, new badges, etc. No one had an issue then. How much money did that cost? And, while I understand why the change was made, was it really necessary? Does the public have a different perception of it being called the Sheriff's Office versus the Sheriff's Department?

All you need to do is drive to Burke County to see the Sheriff's name on the cars there. Across the river, the Sheriff of Aiken Co. has his name incorporated in the Sheriff's Office logo. It's not like Sheriff Roundtree is the first person to do this. And when you enter the State of Georgia, the Governor's name is on the "Welcome to Georgia" sign.

Ron Crowden, the fleet manager, was on the news the other night talking about how the new Dodges were cheaper than the Fords. So, the Sheriff has saved money there. Sheriff Roundtree is at least trying to move the agency forward and foster better relationships with the community. He is pro-deputy, and is trying to increase morale. So what, he is putting his name on the cars. Big deal! Give the man a break.

jwilliams 06/16/13 - 11:41 pm
Hello Fatboyhog, thanks for

Hello Fatboyhog, thanks for taking up for your fellow colleague but I have no issue with the Governor of Georgia nor do I have a problem with Burke County or Aiken County since I do not live in these counties nor do I pay taxes in these counties. “YOU” stated in “YOUR” post when referring to Roundtree that “He is pro-deputy, and is trying to increase morale. So what, he is putting his name on the cars. Big deal! Give the man a break.” It sounds to me that you are very concerned about the members of the ARCSO so do you think that it would be much more important that if Roundtree was going to put his name on something it would be the much needed vests that “YOU” and your colleagues so desperately need? If he was as pro-deputy as “YOU” say that’s where the money should be spent; on the deputies safety.
You also said in your post that “Sheriff Roundtree is at least trying to move the agency forward and foster better relationships with the community.” Good luck with those relationships while referring to people as “SMALL MINDED” simply because they disagree with him.

Young Fred
Young Fred 06/17/13 - 01:59 am
Top down problem

I realize our local gov't isn't answerable to DC, but...

..."They" are aware. They are aware of what's happening on the national stage.

I deal with various government "agencies" on a daily basis. Every since 2008 I've noticed a change. These agencies are there to help and facilitate, that is their job. I've noticed a definite change from serve, to an adversarial relationship.

No longer are they trying to facilitate, know they seem to try and HALT.

It is top down. Our local government observes our national government, and rather than being open, honest (transparent) they stonewall and "invent" excuses.

This will continue, as long as we allow it to continue.

Shirley Jean
Shirley Jean 06/17/13 - 03:27 am

What an ego! If he thinks only small minded people would have any objection to his putting his name on patrol cars. What's wrong with his having cards? Can't he give enough of them out? Only time will tell if he gets re-elected or not. He needs to prove himself as a sheriff, not a black sheriff for my vote.

Riverman1 06/17/13 - 11:18 am

Well, he is a black sheriff, just as Ronnie Strength and the ones before were white sheriffs. It doesn’t imply he is racist to note the reality. It is historically significant because he’s the first black sheriff in the county. He is a constitutionally elected official.

From Rational’s comments, it appears Strength had the logo changed and his name put on it, but the new version hadn’t appeared on cars yet. I assume it would have. Let’s get past the tiny part of the logo with the Sheriff’s name. You can barely see the thing.

Here’s the situation we are in. It’s a predominantly black county. The vast majority of the crime is black on black crime and there’s a lot of it. Lots of whites are victims, too. I suspect a black sheriff can bring a certain dynamic to the black community to lower crime which is also improving the protection of white residents and visitors. He’s off to a pretty good start with lower murder and crime rates in general while implementing a Reserve Officer Program, community policing and appointing excellent spokespeople to keep the media informed. He’s proactive going out on First Friday in battle gear even if it’s only for the benefit of the cameras. Like I said before, I wouldn’t write him off unless he pulled an Ed McIntyre and put up billboards with his picture on them on all roads leading into Augusta. The name on the logo is a nonissue.

fishman960 06/17/13 - 03:11 pm

Riverman1 said " The name on the logo is a nonissue."
While I agree that letterhead and other items needed to be updated, I do not agree with placing his name in the decal. It screams of arrogance.

The name on the combined universities was also a "non issue" I suppose.
At least Azziz didn't put his name all over the signs. Yet.

River, I humbly disagree with you about the non issue. I eagerly await what Roundtree has in store for us next.

Riverman1 06/17/13 - 04:30 pm

"River, I humbly disagree with you about the non issue. I eagerly await what Roundtree has in store for us next."

Haha long as it's not picture on the billboard.

rebellious 06/17/13 - 05:23 pm
I won

"get over it" is what Obama said to McCain. Some people aren't looking for equality or even the best person for the job..... They are after superiority and outright dominance. This "in your face" attitude is indicative of the "We won, get over it" mentality. Folks don't want to peacefully coexist, they want absolute and total control. Even if their person is less qualified than the opposition, mark my words. The beat goes on......and common sense is less and les common.

corgimom 06/22/13 - 06:05 pm
It beats Ed McIntyre and his

It beats Ed McIntyre and his name on the Welcome to Augusta signs.

AutumnLeaves 06/22/13 - 08:38 pm
Okay, just because there are

Okay, just because there are other people doing something, does that make it right? or right for Richmond County (also used to be known as Augusta). If some people are committing crimes then, I guess that is okay for other people to do too? I don't think, all considered, that Roundtree putting his name on those logos was a wise decision. All considered, I said. It is not just about money, although that is a factor in these tough economic times. I think jwilliams and some others covered almost everything I would have written. It is not a good sign; pun intended. And if Roundtree thinks I'm against him, I'm not. I want him to turn this county around and continue to make right decisions, as he has in many instances so far. AUGUSTA-RICHMOND COUNTY'S law-abiding citizens need him and his department to succeed!

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