Do we need more 'flappable'?

It’s hard to find someone who cares at City Hall when no one is in charge

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Someone -- all signs point to City Administrator Fred Russell -- was supposed to try to find private funding last year to help pay for a $500,000 citywide master plan now under way.

There's no reasonable answer as to why no one ever did -- Russell lamely says, "I've been a little busy" -- and why, therefore, taxpayers will be footing the entire bill.

In reality, if Augusta commissioners were expecting a sugar daddy to help pay for such a luxury in 2009 -- while many businesses were scratching to merely survive -- they were deluding themselves, as well as the public.

But to not even try to find a source of private funding -- when the meeting minutes clearly indicate that was the commission's wish -- means that someone dropped a pretty large ball.

Can you imagine dropping a $500,000 ball at work?

Russell is, by nature, a sanguine sort, a trait that has served both his survivability and his sanity in his prior life as a law enforcement officer and as the day-to-day city manager who reports to 11 bosses. But to say "I've been a little busy" is a little too unflappable for our taste.

Maybe we need a little more "flappable" at City Hall.

We certainly need more accountability in Augusta government.

The place is run by a 10-member commission, a mayor with no vote and a city administrator who only must stay on the good side of six of 10 commissioners to maintain employment -- and who, in our weak, diffuse form of government, isn't even trusted enough to hire and fire department heads.

Accountability rarely attaches, and when it does -- say, to a particular department head -- that person, too, serves at the pleasure of six of 10 commissioners. That sounds like it would enhance accountability, but in fact it only dilutes it.

On the rare occasion when a department head is, indeed, taken to task or even fired, it requires an unseemly political scene before the commission. Even then, accountability can be ephemeral: In the case of fired city engineer Teresa Smith, nobody bothered to make sure her personnel records reflected the reasons for her firing -- a bit of a problem when a firing is then litigated.

Everyone is in charge at City Hall, which means no one is.

"Everybody wants to be the boss," says one city official.

We would simply urge commissioners to consider ways to increase accountability at City Hall. Step 1 would be to get the city administrator hiring and firing authority. Step 2 would be to assign someone specific for the city administrator to answer to. He'll always answer to the commission as a whole, but it's difficult for groups to be accountable for such day-to-day tasks.

Commissioners need to understand that they can delegate accountability to others -- department heads, the city administrator, the mayor, whomever -- and still retain the authority they should rightly have.

But they need to understand that when everyone is in charge, no one is.

Comments (11)

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corgimom
19236
Points
corgimom 02/16/10 - 08:17 pm
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I see fault on both sides.

I see fault on both sides. What would've been wrong with the commissioners saying, "Hey Fred, how's it coming with getting the private funding for that $500,000 study that we authorized?" Instead, they waited until the study was done and then said, "Hey Fred, where's the money?" That's not right, either.

disssman
6
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disssman 02/16/10 - 09:24 pm
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If the commissioners were a

If the commissioners were a policy making group, no one would have to supervise Fred. In the question of his "talking" people out of 500K in donations. To even assume he could do such a thing in this day is preposterous. If a company has been here more than a day, they surely know that we perform expensive plans that are pie -in-the-sky dreams at best and a waste of money that most of them need in this economy. So get off Fred he isn't responsible for begging for bucks for the commissioners so they can waste them. I thought he was responsible for the day-to-day operation of the city and the elected officials were supposed to do the out year planning and smoozing with "stakeholders".

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 02/16/10 - 09:38 pm
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No one is ever held

No one is ever held accountable under any circumstances beyond "caught in the act". The question remains the same as it was 30 years ago. Who's driving this boat? The merger, which left the city, county and commission without leadership, only provided more cover for those with the purse strings. With no one responsible and no one accountable, how is anything ever accomplished?

Riverman1
70548
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Riverman1 02/17/10 - 08:57 am
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It was an unrealistic request

It was an unrealistic request for Russell to find the money from private concerns. He knew he couldn't do it and that it was an impractical idea. This is his way of not confronting the Commissioners about their impossible directive.

He is a master at keeping everyone happy and being tactful. It was better for him to take the heat than make them look bad. Say whatever you want about him, he has survived in this town when one administrator after another was being thrown out after a short while.

No one wanted to come here and take the job. Randy Oliver has been proven over the years to be one of the best administrators in the country and he was run out of Augusta.

Oh, I have my problems with Russell, but that's for another day. He has to be a genius to have survived here over this past decade with some of these Commissioners and kept his optimism.

I sincerely ask if you believe we could bring in anyone who could hold things together like Russell does without having a nervous breakdown when seeing what there is to work with?

Brad Owens
3648
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Brad Owens 02/17/10 - 09:40 am
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Yet another study to the tune

Yet another study to the tune of $500,000.00 dollars? That is half of the cut that was made to the Sheriff's office this year. If you combine what was spent on this study with cuts for few of the Boards and Authorities which produce very, little if any, results, then we could have not made cuts Public Safety during an 'up-tick' or 'spike' in violent crime in Augusta. Priorties, it's where your money gets spent. But I guess we MUST have these studies or the 'policy makers' cannot figure out what to do huh?

deekster
24
Points
deekster 02/17/10 - 12:43 pm
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A "dysfunctional family" in

A "dysfunctional family" in need of an "intervention". A "healing" as it were, perchance a "laying on of hands". Deke could do that. He has the authority from First Baptist and the Bible. But "his eye is not on the sparrow" my fellow citizens, but Washington DC. Watching this "circus" on cable is enough to make a taxpayer "go postal".

corgimom
19236
Points
corgimom 02/17/10 - 01:50 pm
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Riverman and Brad, great

Riverman and Brad, great posts.

deekster
24
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deekster 02/17/10 - 03:47 pm
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The Charter of Consolidated

The Charter of Consolidated Augusta was "designed" to create confusion, mismanagement, overlapping responsibilities, micro managing by illiterates and chaos. A "perfect storm" for corruption by design.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 02/17/10 - 03:49 pm
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0

How many mayors, city

How many mayors, city managers, city administrators does "God's Little Acre" require? We have a combination of "the blind leading the blind" and "a fox living int he hen house".

deekster
24
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deekster 02/17/10 - 03:53 pm
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Control the money and power,

Control the money and power, condescend to minorities by giving them
"positions" with no real power or control. Frustration and division along racial lines by DESIGN. There is no "us getting together in Augusta". Ask Don. Ask Jerry. Ask Jimmy. Ask Champ.

Little Lamb
40138
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Little Lamb 02/18/10 - 09:19 am
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The editorial writer said: In

The editorial writer said:

In the case of fired city engineer Teresa Smith, nobody bothered to make sure her personnel records reflected the reasons for her firing -- a bit of a problem when a firing is then litigated.

You don't need to use the term nobody. Keeping her personnel records straight was the responsibility one person, i.e., Fred (What, me worry?) Russell.

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