Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Jackson becomes Fred Russell fan, slams mayoral field

Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 6:58 PM
Last updated Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 7:21 PM
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A month ago, Commis­sioner Joe Jackson voted to fire city Ad­min­­istrator Fred Russell. Now he’s singing Russell’s praises and supporting him for mayor.

After hearing about Jack­son’s change of heart, I called to inquire as to his state of mind.

“It was politics,” he said about the firing. “The $40 million spent for (renovating) the Marble Palace. That’s the kind of thing that got my goat.”

I just let it slide that Rus­sell gave commissioners three alternative renovation plans and cost estimates to choose from, and they voted on the $40 million plan.

“The No. 1 reason I’m supporting him is he’s the only person that’s come and asked me to support him,” Jackson continued. “And as far as connections to the community, he’s the most involved person in Richmond County. He won’t have to do any networking. He’s already got connections with GRU and Paine College. He’s got his finger on the pulse of the community and the government.”

But the main thing about Rus­sell, Jackson said, is “he’s never lied to us. He’s done what he said he’d do. We had our disagreements with him, but having to appease 10 people … Of the announced candidates, what have they done for Au­gusta? What from state Sen. Hardie Davis’ side has he brought back to Augusta?

“And Alvin Mason is running for mayor. What has he done for the city? At least Fred brought something to the table.”

I posed that very question to Mason and Davis.

“Joe clearly has amnesia, as it was his suggestion that we fire Fred immediately, and now he supports him,” Ma­son said. “That speaks volumes. I guess it’s because he couldn’t get any support in his run for mayor. Every­body knew he was just a placeholder. All the calling around he did netted him zero.

“Feel free to go on my Web site if you feel the need to find out what I have done. I suspect you won’t have to, though. I don’t count the things I do. I just do the things that count. At the end of the day the voters will decide, and I will be fine with whatever decision they make. I will continue to pray for Joe, his wife and family during these troubling times.”

Davis said there’s no comparison between his service and Russell’s.

“I am the senator elected by the people to represent the 22nd Senate District,” he said. “Mr. Russell was a hired employee of the city who was involuntarily dismissed by those to whom he reported. His decisions surrounding the use of taxpayer dollars for a variety of projects, notwithstanding the parking deck debacle that involved air rights versus city ownership of the land and granting unauthorized salary increases to a select group of employees, have cost the city and taxpayers greatly.”

Davis said he was one of the few Democrats in the Legislature to have written legislation that was passed and signed into law by the governor.

“Locally, I worked with the members of the legislative delegation to re-constitute the Coliseum Authority, and it has been a stellar example of people working together to get things done.

“As the senator, I have worked with elected officials and community stakeholders from across this state to bring significant resources to our community in the areas of education, transportation and health care.”

ONE MORE FOR RUSSELL: Commissioner Grady Smith, who was absent the day Rus­sell was fired, said if Rus­sell is a candidate, he’ll support him.

“Give it a little time, and I think people will see he did more good for Richmond County than anybody realized, ” Smith said.

He likened Russell’s firing to that of Recreation Di­rector Tom Beck in 2012 over a trumped-up accusation of time-card fraud.

“He worked 37 years, and they drum up some little charge about four hours’ worth of time,” he said. “If somebody wants to get rid of you, they can find a reason. And until we stop playing games in this county, it’s going nowhere.”

THE BOY KING CHIMES IN: When asked whether he’d support Russell, Mayor Deke Copenhaver didn’t answer directly. Instead, he said that if Russell “jumps into the race, he’ll be a formidable candidate as his knowledge of local government and how to work within it is substantial to say the least.”

The mayor said he introduced Russell at the sheriff’s gala last week after Rus­sell had been left out of the VIP introductions because he felt strongly it was something he needed to do because Russell has done “a tremendous amount” to help the city grow.

“And I think his efforts deserved to be acknowledged publicly,” he said.

As for whether he’d like to be city administrator, Co­pen­haver said he had “no interest in that position whatsoever.”

“In the future I’ll continue to do whatever I can to help the city move forward, but after running the Green­space program for four years and serving as mayor for nine years, doing that as a private citizen is very appealing to me at this point!” he said.

IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK AND ASKS FOR DONATIONS: It’s running for something. Russell hasn’t officially announced, but he’s acting like a candidate, raising money and making the rounds in south Augusta. He was in Hephzibah three times last week.

WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN: Com­missioner Marion Wil­liams is demanding to see Rus­­sell’s hard drive.

Seven years ago, then-Commissioner Calvin Holland asked an assistant city information technology director for the hard drive from Russell’s computer while Russell was on vacation. Holland was later censured by his colleagues.

Williams got into the act and said he’d had to “go outside to do some things” to get a copy of the hard drive but hadn’t looked at it because he wanted to be sure he was on solid legal ground.

Computergate eventually faded away, but not the bitterness over the censure.

Williams made his new request at last week’s commission meeting. Attorney Andrew MacKenzie told him he could make a Free­dom of Information request, which predictably didn’t sit well with Williams.

“I don’t have to request no Freedom of Infor­ma­tion,” he said later. “The attorney’s wrong. He’s been wrong, and he needs to go. Ain’t nothing in this government elected officials can’t see. I’ve got a right to see it. I’m going to see it. I’m going to expose it.”

HEAR NO EVIL, SEE NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL: Davis and Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, were members of a state Senate committee that is recommending the state make it easier for ex-convicts to erase their criminal records and to block landlords, employers and the media from accessing arrest information, according to Morris News Service reporter Walter Jones.

The recommendations include prohibiting companies from asking job candidates about convictions that have been legally wiped away and ending the release of mug shots and booking information. The report notes that having a criminal record makes getting jobs and housing difficult.

Hmmm, I wonder why.

David Hudson, an attorney for the Georgia Press Asso­cia­tion, warned that keeping initial arrest records and mug shots secret would resemble practices in a police state

SHE’S IN AGAIN: State Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, who will be seeking her fourth term in the Legisla­ture this year, has been appointed chairwoman of the State Properties Com­mission. Sims is also a member of six other House committees, including Rules, Appropriations and Transportation.

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Riverman1
84907
Points
Riverman1 01/11/14 - 09:39 pm
11
2
Anybody In Jail Who Can Lawyer and Administrate?

“I don’t have to request no Freedom of Information,” he said later. “The attorney’s wrong. He’s been wrong, and he needs to go. Ain’t nothing in this government elected officials can’t see. I’ve got a right to see it. I’m going to see it. I’m going to expose it.”

The way this commission treats people working for them, the only way they’re going to find employees will be to get people in jail and put them on work release to fill the positions.

raul
5011
Points
raul 01/11/14 - 09:40 pm
15
2
My, Marion Williams is such a

My, Marion Williams is such a polished orator, said no one, ever.

Little Lamb
46396
Points
Little Lamb 01/11/14 - 10:18 pm
5
4
Williams is often wrong . . .

. . . but in this case he is correct. He, as a county commissioner, is authorized to examine the computer files, E-mails, phone records, etc. of former county employees and current county employees.

The trouble is that he should not have made such a request in a commission meeting. That's the kind of request you make during normal business hours.

Of course, it's a little awkward at this time. Should he have made his request of then-acting city administrator Deke Copenhave? Now that Tameka Allen has formally been named interim city administrator, he can ask her.

He would do well to have the head of IT Department and a couple of techies to help him make sense of it.

If he were intelligent, he would have insisted that Fred Russell report to work at Kroger after the firing. Much information I'm sure has been wiped from the hard drive.

Nevertheless, the city maintains backups on their servers, so the info is out there somewhere.

just an opinion
2645
Points
just an opinion 01/11/14 - 10:19 pm
15
4
Marion Williams education?

Did he finish high school? If so, where? Who was his English teacher? Was he offered extra help? If not, we failed him as a student.

corgimom
33161
Points
corgimom 01/11/14 - 10:22 pm
7
5
Oh, here we go again, another

Oh, here we go again, another crazy year in Augusta politics.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 01/11/14 - 10:30 pm
7
3
Interesting...

…..that Ole Joe thought it a good idea to throw Fred under the bus and fire him, but turn around less than a month later and recommend him for Mayor….maybe all that "chaw" has gone to his brain..

As far as Fred's chances…I'll say it again, with the current demographic makeup in RC the next Mayor will likely be black..
Unless some major "walking around money" can be conjured up and a ballot box or two "stuffed"….
Oh wait!..That NEVER happens here does it?…Hahahahaha!.

jwilliams
893
Points
jwilliams 01/11/14 - 10:43 pm
4
2
Taken from this article, Joe

Taken from this article, Joe clearly has amnesia, as it was his suggestion that we fire Fred immediately, and now he supports him,” Ma¬son said. “That speaks volumes. I guess it’s because he couldn’t get any support in his run for mayor. Everybody knew he was just a placeholder. All the calling around he did netted him zero.” Mason, I may not support you, but when you’re right you’re right. Jackson is only a placeholder. He let out a loud sigh of relief when nobody ran against him in 2010. If Bozo the clown had run against him Bozo would have won. Here’s one of the MANY reasons why Jackson would never be mayor of ARC even if he did want to run, quote from Commissioner Joe Jackson, taken from the Augusta Chronicle; City Ink (12, 2012), “I don’t mind playing the freaking race card because it will show the true colors of this commission because you have six people who love Ronnie Strength,” Jackson said. “If you really want it to be about race, I can make it about race. This was a statement made by Jackson concerning the naming of the Sheriff’s Administration building which passed 6-1-1. Hey Fred, ALL endorsements aren’t GOOD endorsements. Also Jackson asked, “What has he (Mason) done for the city?” That same question can be posed to you Jackson. What have you done besides making keys for local governmental agencies? In closing, I guess Joe does suffer from amnesia, because he made this statement less than a year ago, taken from the Augusta Chronicle, March 2013, “I really don’t care about the censure. I don’t plan to run for office in this county anymore.”

dichotomy
33500
Points
dichotomy 01/11/14 - 11:25 pm
13
2
“I don’t have to request no

“I don’t have to request no Freedom of Information,”

I think it's obvious that Marion has never requested much information. And apparently he already has obtained a Freedom from English.

Marion...you are an embarrassment. Please sit down and be quiet. You wouldn't know what to do with the hard drive if you got it. And even if you did, the worst things on Russell's hard drive would probably be the things the Commission voted to approve......unless there is still something on there about how much YOU got for that church property YOU sold the city. Now that deal ought to be an indictable offense for fraud against the taxpayers.

Brad Owens
4583
Points
Brad Owens 01/12/14 - 12:02 am
13
1
No surprise here..

"When asked whether he’d support Russell, Mayor Deke Copenhaver didn’t answer directly..."

Brad Owens
4583
Points
Brad Owens 01/12/14 - 12:10 am
9
1
Commissioner Williams...

I love how so many of you attack Marion's grammar and vernacular but miss his point; he is being told that he has to submit a FOI request to see information that as an elected official should only need to request as part of his fiduciary duties. The commission has oversight and DIRECT control of the administrators office and he is correct, he should not need to submit a FOI request to see anything pertaining to any area of the county government.

Now, to Marion I would say, "Welcome to our world Mr. Commissioner!" Lots of "internet bloggers" and "facebook group" members have been given the run around MANY times using the good ol' FOI block while trying to get information about city projects like the TEE Center and Parking Deck scandal.

On this, Marion is right.. and why shouldn't he ask in public for it?

Brad

rebellious
20916
Points
rebellious 01/12/14 - 12:41 am
12
1
We

don't need no stinkin badges... Marion Williams is crazy like a fox. And don't for a minute think the man can't articulate with the best of the best when it is suitable. He knows who elected him, and he knows thousands of Obama phones out there can view the mobile video of the meetings. Yassar, make fun all you want, the man is speaking the language of those who voted him in office. Many of them have had hard-drives in their pockets at times. Oh yeah, throw me in the brier patch....

deestafford
27840
Points
deestafford 01/12/14 - 01:25 am
6
3
What's going on with Jesse Stone?

What's going on with Jesse Stone? I thought he was conservative and here he appears to be on the side of criminals. If this is so, he'll never get my vote for anything.

Riverman1
84907
Points
Riverman1 01/12/14 - 05:09 am
7
2
It seems to me...

It seems to me the Commission agreed a few years back that individual commissioners would not get involved in the various departments and giving instructions to employees as individual commissioners. If this is true, Williams is breaking that rule trying to get the hard drive for himself. But it is true that Russell had a business he ran on the side. He may have stopped that recently, but I know he once did. I think that’s what Williams has in mind and wants to look for on the computer.

Graymare
3244
Points
Graymare 01/12/14 - 08:20 am
11
1
Huh?

So, one of the commissioners who fired Russell, thereby making sure he gets a big severance package, is backing him if he runs for mayor? Wow, that doesn't smell right.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
8322
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 01/12/14 - 09:05 am
7
2
Stone and Marion Williams

OK Jesse, if I hire someone who's stolen from employers before, your bill makes that invisible to me so that they can steal from me!! I thought you were smarter than that. I guess you won't be running for re-election!
Marion, you want the hard drive, go ask your puppet for it. You may want to consider that once you've gotten it you've probably just made any evidence of any wrongdoing on it in-admissable in court, or maybe that is why you want it!!

raul
5011
Points
raul 01/12/14 - 12:01 pm
3
1
@Riverman. Fred had a

@Riverman. Fred had a business on the side? And that wouldn't have interfered with his administrator duties? I must have missed that one.

Riverman1
84907
Points
Riverman1 01/12/14 - 12:26 pm
5
1
Raul

Raul, I know he maintained a business on the side for years while he was the administrator and he may still. I never heard of him getting out of it. The business was renting things like tents and temporary bleachers to local governments for events around the southeast.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 01/12/14 - 01:17 pm
2
2
I'm a conservative….

…but in the Mayoral race…..I'd take ANY of the assumed Democrat candidates over Fred Russell…
While they are probably not very conservative in their positions…Mr Russell as been a part of the "inner workings" of the demise of the county far FAR too long for me to trust him with my vote…

I'd take an untried neophyte before I'd vote for someone who has been such a large part of the financial shenanigans that ARC government has been put through the last few years...

GnipGnop
12290
Points
GnipGnop 01/12/14 - 06:23 pm
2
0
The reason....

Augusta politics never change is because the players remain the same. Raise taxes and screw your property owners is the common theme in Augusta.

raul
5011
Points
raul 01/12/14 - 07:25 pm
2
1
Has Marion Williams ever

Has Marion Williams ever articulated a legitimate, specific reason why he wants the information on Fred's computer or is it just because he thinks he can have it? If he said, for example, I have documented reason to believe that the administrator violated law in such a such manner, then yeah. I wonder what Marion would say if another commissioner wanted to look at his computer for no reason given? Why waste people's time unless you have given a reason that would be in the interest of the public?

GnipGnop
12290
Points
GnipGnop 01/12/14 - 08:09 pm
3
0
Why would anyone even consider Marion's request?

Drag Snacks anyone? Paid 3 times what his church property was worth. Investigative reporting anyone? Of course when the local paper owner is the wolf watching the hen house what do you expect???

FormerAugustaResident
101
Points
FormerAugustaResident 01/13/14 - 09:25 am
2
0
So what's the problem?

I think it was the late Art Buchwald who once said of Washington D.C. "The best thing about Washington is the farther away you are the more you feel someone is in control" (paraphrased).

As a Former Resident, I must say the same applies to the city government of Augusta. Sounds like things are going well there....

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