Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta Commission members ramble on and on

  • Follow City Ink

Summer is officially here, but we’re still getting a snow job from Wash­ington.

Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, testified that they weren’t trying to hide the government’s massive cyber snooping programs. They want to tell us what they’re doing. He said it’s all a matter of trust.

Also last week, FBI Di­rector Robert Mueller admitted his agency uses drones in the United States for surveillance on occasion.

SPEAKING OF DRONES … That reminds me of Augusta Commission members. Not that they’re spying on anybody. They’re just boring them to death, droning on and on.

For example, the subject of rotating meeting times for committee meetings was back on the agenda last week for about the fifth time. Commissioner Bill Lockett has been pushing for the rotation because the committee he heads is scheduled last, so he often doesn’t have a quorum.

Several commissioners weighed in on the matter, pro and con, with more words than necessary to get the point across.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said they just needed to think about the number of items they put on the agenda.

“We’re just having too much discussion up here,” he said. “As a unit, we need to be more cognizant and be more considerate of the people here waiting for us to get to their item.”

The room was packed with residents from Nation­al Hills subdivision, there to voice concerns about a new apartment complex in the works near their neighborhood.

Next, Commissioner Bill Fennoy spoke in favor of rotation, repeating what had been said more than once on several occasions.

Then it was Commis­sioner Grady Smith’s turn to ramble.

“I’d like to agree with Commissioner Johnson to a point,” he said. “Some comments are not necessary. … I’m not going to sit down here six hours and sit here waiting for my turn. To come down here and sit and listen to some of the redundant conversation that goes on about some things – but some of it goes on and on and on. I’ve got a direct dial to Domino’s, and that’s what I’m going to do next time.”

When it appeared they’d never stop talking, Mayor Deke Copenhaver said, “We’ve got a lot of the public sitting out here, and how much time are we spending discussing this issue?”

Too much was the obvious answer. So Commis­sion­er Joe Jackson moved to send the matter back to committee for more discussion.

Then Lockett said, “It’s kind of ironic that people wonder why this commission can’t get along on bigger items, and something as simple as rotating the schedules they can’t come to agreement on it. I put it on the agenda … it was sent back. Now you’re wanting to do something different.”

Apparently offended by Smith’s remarks, Marion Williams started ranting about commissioners’ duties and the amount of time it takes to do the job right, taking up a lot of time in the process.

“Those who don’t want to be a servant ought not to run for the job,” he said, among many other things too numerous to mention here.

And on it went until they voted to discuss it more in all five committees.

THE GREATEST IS CHARITY: Next up was the extension of Heery International’s construction management contract. City Administrator Fred Russell said he’d been negotiating with Heery since the last meeting and that Heery had agreed to reduce its fees by $188,435.

At a committee meeting the week before, Heery manager Forrest White and subconsultant Butch Gallop were caught off guard by Williams’ and Wayne Guil­foyle’s questions about Heery’s billing and salaries, particularly Gallop’s. On Tuesday, reinforcements arrived in the form of project executives Dennis LaGatta and Glenn Jardine.

Williams had grilled Gal­lop about what he did as community liaison, so Gallop delivered thick packages detailing everything Wil­liams had asked for to the city clerk three days later. But several commissioners said they’d just gotten it.

“I’m afraid to open mine because it might have baseball tickets in it,” Smith said, referring to reports of Heery plying commissioners with tickets to Atlanta Falcon and Braves games.

Prompted by Johnson, a regular recipient of Heery’s generosity, Jardine assured everyone that Heery always acts with the highest integrity.

“Like thousands of other companies in the United States, we participate in the political process and in charitable contributions because we’ve invested in the community,” he said. “Everything we’ve done here has been above board and legal. We’ve made contributions to charitable events, scholarships, the Whee­less Road playground, the Alzheimer’s Foundation. These are all perfectly legal, above-board charities.”

The commission finally voted to extend the contract, but not before Lockett had his say.

“This campaign money thing has just completely been blown out of proportion. … Now there’s only been one person that financed his campaign himself, and that was Abraham Lincoln, and he almost went bankrupt. All of us sitting up here today, even the mayor with all his money, have received campaign contributions.”

YOU NEVER MISS THE WATER TILL THE WELL GOES DRY: Williams and Lockett are gunning for General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie. Williams wants to hire an outside attorney to handle commission business and have the in-house attorneys do the other legal work.

Lockett wants his colleagues to approve a no-confidence vote on MacKenzie.

When Williams’ motion came up Tuesday, former city Attorney Jim Wall was present to brief the board on another matter.

“I see my good friend Mr. Wall is standing by the wall back there,” Williams said. “I didn’t think I would tell him this: I miss you, Jim.”

When Lockett’s item came up, Russell advised them not to discuss it publicly but to hire an outside attorney to come to the next legal meeting and hear Lock­ett’s complaints if need be.

“Are we going to pay him to show up to see if we need him?” Williams asked.

“Yes, sir,” said Russell.

WHAT PART OF NO DIDN’T HE UNDERSTAND? Lockett asked MacKenzie four times whether they could tell a potential vendor that the city expected a certain percentage of minority participation even though the court struck down the city’s minority business program several years ago. MacKenzie told him four times that the city should abide by its current race- and -gender neutral small business program.

“It’s my advice there not be any communication relating to any minority participation,” MacKenzie said.

“Let’s skip the semantics,” Lockett replied. “Is there anything that we could have done with this contract?”

MacKenzie advised they follow the regulations of the local small business program.

HIS CHEEK IS TOO SORE TO TURN: This week I saw a police report involving former Columbia County Com­mis­sioner Frank Spears. I called Frank to ask what happened. Turns out, he’d had quite an experience – and not a religious one either, though it was church related.

He said he’d prefer not to give details until he has his day in court, but he did confirm the events outlined in the report. He was physically assaulted at his insurance office May 16; he was struck in the face, fell back on the concrete sidewalk and was knocked unconscious for several minutes. He’s still bruised and has a loose tooth or two. The church folks want his attacker to apologize, but Frank preferred a restraining order and got one last week.

The wheels of justice seem to be moving at a snail’s pace. The police came to the scene but couldn’t arrest his attacker because they didn’t see the man deck Frank. So Frank had to go to State Court to file charges. His court date has been postponed twice because of attorney delays. You know what they say about the legal system – delay, delay, delay; delay until it goes away.

Meanwhile, Frank says, “I could have been killed. I was a county commissioner for four years. You’d think somebody would have got me then instead of over a mission trip.”

Comments (15) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
corgimom
26376
Points
corgimom 06/22/13 - 07:53 pm
3
2
All the talk about the

All the talk about the attorney- almost makes me long for the days of Chiquita. (uh, no, not really, jk)

Brad Owens
4097
Points
Brad Owens 06/22/13 - 08:00 pm
13
0
Heery .. oh boy.

“Like thousands of other companies in the United States, we participate in the political process and in charitable contributions because we’ve invested in the community,” he said.

That means we pay back the large lucrative unwarranted fees in our contracts by making large contributions to the campaigns of those who vote with us and help us fleece the taxpayer.

AutumnLeaves
5700
Points
AutumnLeaves 06/22/13 - 08:25 pm
6
0
Not too hard to figure out

Not too hard to figure out why the sudden animosity toward McKenzie. All you have to do is read a recent development on a long-standing topic to put two and two together. Three guesses, the first two don't count.

badmoon426
922
Points
badmoon426 06/22/13 - 08:25 pm
3
0
There needs to be...

...more accountability and transparency in what the 'subconsultants' do for their billing rates.

Supposedly Gallop and Associates do workshops and seminars. This is quite easy to check give the commission a list of the workshops and seminars as well as a list of all attended.

Out of that you will also get some ROI (return on investment).

dichotomy
29826
Points
dichotomy 06/22/13 - 09:49 pm
11
1
Ain't no fools like old fools

Ain't no fools like old fools and we've sure got 'em on the commission. I know none of them have sense enough to be embarrassed by their own ignorance but I am sure embarrassed enough for all of them. I get so tired of visiting folks in surrounding counties and having them chuckle out loud when I say I live in Richmond County.

Riverman1
78440
Points
Riverman1 06/22/13 - 10:05 pm
8
1
$188,435

"City Administrator Fred Russell said he’d been negotiating with Heery since the last meeting and that Heery had agreed to reduce its fees by $188,435."

I wonder how they decided on the exact amount of $188,435 they could give back?

Riverman1
78440
Points
Riverman1 06/23/13 - 06:54 am
8
0
"The police came to the scene

"The police came to the scene but couldn’t arrest his attacker because they didn’t see the man deck Frank."

There must be another side to this or the police would have done something. Frank Spears has always been a polarizing individual. Maybe the guy who punched him is still mad about the "rainwater tax."

GnipGnop
11422
Points
GnipGnop 06/23/13 - 12:31 am
7
0
I don't care if it's not illegal...

it smacks of bribery and it should be stopped. I cannot believe anyone on the commission thinks it is ok...that just shows what kind of people you have running the city in the ground and explains to me what happened with the trash service!!

myfather15
47753
Points
myfather15 06/23/13 - 07:02 am
5
0
Those that think it's Ok,

Those that think it's Ok, should be voted out!!! But, with We the People, being so uninformed and unattached to politicians ways; the commision will probably get a raise!! Oh wait, didn't they already get their raises?

JRC2024
7759
Points
JRC2024 06/23/13 - 10:12 am
3
0
I want to know what made the

I want to know what made the man deck Frank and wo was the attacker? You should know Marion Williams would get offended. He needs to follow the rule that says why say something in 50 words if you can say it in a much smaller amount. I guess he is trying to sound like he knows something.

nocnoc
37550
Points
nocnoc 06/23/13 - 03:29 pm
3
0
Any plans to add ETHICS &

Any plans to add

ETHICS & Conflict of Interest proposed discussions to the next ARC Commissioner session?

It is not that hard and takes 5 minutes to vote to have the City Attorney research the ETHICS & Conflict of Interest used by GA House and other Major cities. Then draw up a proposed draft with TEETH for a commission vote.

That is IF the ARC Commission really wants to have ETHICS & Conflict of Interest rules that mean something.

jwilliams
715
Points
jwilliams 06/23/13 - 03:36 pm
3
0
This is not the first time

This is not the first time that the taxpaying citizens of ARC have had to deal with the shenanigans of Wilbert “BUTCH” Gallop and his so-called associates. How could the “leaders” of ARC continue to deal with a person who has a track record as the following. ARC needs more control over who is used as subcontractors. If they have a history of doing the wrong thing they should not be used, please review the following stories/links.
The Shiloh Fiasco –
http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/1998
Center Facing Problems with Structure, Debt – http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/1998
Shiloh Probe Uncovers Concerns – http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/1997
There is a name for doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results and that would be “INSANITY.”

corgimom
26376
Points
corgimom 06/23/13 - 03:55 pm
3
0
Riverman, $188,000 for

Riverman, $188,000 for services, $435 for baseball tickets

GnipGnop
11422
Points
GnipGnop 06/23/13 - 04:59 pm
3
0
New Augusta Commission Commercial.....

$435 for baseball tickets,$188,000 for services, Marion Williams complaining about someone else's ethics? PRICELESS!!!

scoopdedoop64
2328
Points
scoopdedoop64 06/23/13 - 05:32 pm
0
0
Wasted Time

What a waste of time! Is this what our forefathers intended for our government to become?

Back to Top

Loading...