Conduct unbecoming

Why can't Augusta Commission agree on a code of behavior?

The Augusta Commission has adopted a conduct code for itself several times in recent years. It hasn’t done any good.

The document must be flawed in some way. It can’t be us.

That seems to be the odd logic of some on the commission who actually are resisting the simple and common-sense code of behavior.

Even though the code was developed by the commission itself at a retreat in 2006, and reaffirmed in 2009, the commission decided at its first meeting of 2012 last week to table a modest request by Mayor Copenhaver to re-adopt it. Instead, they’ll have another retreat, and see if that does any good.

We’re in the word business. We can tell you with some authority that words matter. But in this case, we hardly think the problem is in the code of conduct or its wording. This group’s problem is its own. The loggerheads on this commission are so particular, they ought to come with a trademark symbol.

Whatever they decide at the retreat, whatever the code’s wording, it will be meaningless unless and until commissioners take its meaning into their hearts. That will require a radical departure from history – most notably the previous year, during which the four black commissioners appear to have acted primarily out of abject fear that the white commissioners were trying to pull something. At every turn, they opposed a remake of the employee manual, the powers of the administrator and a restructuring of government for efficiency’s sake. The contretemps have flavored everything this body does.

They no doubt would have savored the county’s loss in a lawsuit by a black ministers’ group challenging the majority’s decision to grant city Administrator Fred Russell increased hiring/firing authority.

How functional, much less alluring, can a city be when its elected body is constantly warring with itself? When suspicions rule the day? When racial distrust is more ubiquitous in the air than ozone?

At some point, you would think voters would wonder exactly what kind of fruit this confrontational, combative approach is bearing. It sure seems bitter and the calories empty.

That retreat can’t come soon enough if commissioners do it right – by going in with open hearts and minds and leaving old prejudices and grudges behind. It can be done – and should be, for the sakes of everyone in this community.

But if they can’t even agree on a simple code of conduct? Where can you go from there?

AUGUSTA COMMISSION CODE OF CONDUCT

 

Developed at a retreat Jan. 12, 2006, and rededicated March 20, 2009:

As a Mayor and Commission we all agree to strive toward maintaining the following code of conduct in our actions with each other and at Commission meetings:

We will represent the government and the people in a positive manner at all times.

We will respect and support the action of the Commission above our own views and lay aside our differences and move forward.

We will respect each other as public servants elected by the people and we will communicate honestly with each other in a professional and a respectful manner keeping the public interest in mind at all times.

We will hold confidences with each other.

We will investigate, listen, and debate prior to taking action or making decisions.

We will trust each other to speak and respect each other to listen.

We will be respectful of each other’s time.

 We will be prepared to discuss issues in an open, honest, and professional manner focusing on issues not personalities.

 We will stay focused on the long range direction of Augusta.

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