We are better than this

Augusta's government fails to keep up with a dynamic city

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With the opening of the 38,000-square-foot Augusta Convention Center on Thursday, we now have trade, exhibit and conference space that is worthy of the state’s second-largest city.


When will we have a government that is, too?

Several recent episodes illustrate yet again that the city-county government is fundamentally flawed and is holding us back.

The Chronicle learned recently, for instance, that Richmond County Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick has been receiving a yearly $25,941 local supplement on top of his statutory salary.

Unlike recent local supplemental raises for the new sheriff and solicitor-general, Kendrick’s was never approved by the Augusta Commission.

Rather, Kendrick arranged for his supplement in 2008 in a letter he wrote to then-human resources manager Moses McCauley. “Per our conversation,” the letter reads, Kendrick is to get 15 percent more than his highest-paid employee.

Kendrick says that’s how he was told it was done, in conversations with several city officials. But honestly, we’ve never heard of such a thing.

There doesn’t seem to be much sentiment to undo the unapproved raise so long after the fact – and apparently elected officials’ pay can’t be reduced. Still, we certainly don’t buy city Administrator Fred Russell’s shrug of the shoulders that, “Once you give a salary, you can’t take it back.” There are a lot of folks in the private sector who would beg to differ.

But Kendrick really isn’t the story here. It’s a city government that is so out to lunch that it gives a raise on the applicant’s say-so and nothing else, with no regard to written policy.

The government structure invites such silliness. It puts 10 commissioners and a largely ceremonial mayor in charge of a hamstrung city administrator who can’t hire and fire department heads. It also makes that administrator nearly bulletproof by requiring a super-majority of commissioners to fire him.

The accountability in Augusta government is next to nil. As we’ve noted before, when everyone’s in charge, no one’s in charge. For the unscrupulous insider, it’s an open invitation to see what you can get away with.

In another incident, three commissioners are under attack from other commissioners for having violated the ethics code by doing business with the city. Commissioners Grady Smith (plumbing and mechanical), Wayne Guilfoyle (flooring) and Joe Jack­son (locksmithing) have received city business directly or indirectly since taking office.

None of the three appears to have used influence to get the work. But rules are rules – and rules are there precisely to prevent the exercising of such influence, or even the appearance of it.

The issue needs to be investigated fully, and any improperly earned funds returned. But fellow commissioners should also be cautious about needlessly dividing this elective body more than it already is.

The truth is, the consolidated government was designed in the 1990s expressly to divide and impede: an even number of commissioners, with no mayoral vote except in the case of ties (and there never seems to be one!); and an intent to populate the commission with five blacks and five whites, lest one race seek an advantage over the other.

We understand the legitimate historical reasons for that. But the structure of this commission is still a monument to mistrust. And it seems to draw people who insist on using it as directed.

We can do better than this. We are better than this.

Comments (13) Add comment
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palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 03/04/13 - 05:39 am
6
0
Nice job, ACES. But far more
Unpublished

Nice job, ACES. But far more diplomatic than I believe many taxpayers would express the same sentiments.

Riverman1
114071
Points
Riverman1 03/04/13 - 09:34 am
5
0
I Know the Feeling

Yes, I know that need to ventilate sometimes about Augusta government. There is simply no justification of the design and operation of the goverment. The behavior of all the officials including the Mayor plays to what's expected of them by the form of the government.

Riverman1
114071
Points
Riverman1 03/04/13 - 09:53 am
5
1
State Takeover?

The governor of Michigan is moving for the state to take over management of the city of Detroit. He says they've demonstrated they can't run an effective government. With Geogia's Gov. Deal already moving to take over a county school board in Atlanta I wonder if he could be encouraged to take a look at Augusta's government?

seenitB4
119319
Points
seenitB4 03/04/13 - 09:55 am
3
1
heehheh

countyman can you see what others read about Augusta......stop blaming the "outsiders" as you call us & look at the dang downtown government boo boos...

jpbrig
509
Points
jpbrig 03/04/13 - 10:54 am
0
2
The Chronicle

The Chronicle management, the Chamber, Charles Walker, and Robin Williams designed this government. I guess some of them will design the next one too.

dichotomy
44013
Points
dichotomy 03/04/13 - 10:54 am
5
3
Augusta was designed BY

Augusta was designed BY racist to BE racially adversarial and REMAIN racially adversarial forever. The only good thing about that is that when the blacks finally gain control of the commission and we have a black mayor they will have to endure that same garbage from the opposition that THEY have been pulling for 17 years. I surely hope I live long enough to see the white commissioners abstaining, walking out, and blocking progress at every turn like the black commissioners have been doing for 17 years. I will certainly be ROFLMAO. I can't wait to hear mayor Mason be called a powerless figurehead, commissioner Lockett talking about the obstructionist white commissioners, and Fred still saying "what, me worry". I hope Boss Walker will still be in prison and wondering why his city government plan ain't quite working out like he planned. Heck, South Augusta might finally get some "whitemail" development money by doing some vote trading.

deestafford
42038
Points
deestafford 03/04/13 - 11:20 am
4
1
Hitting the nail on the head

is something dichonomy has done again. The government was set up to placate the black politicians. If they ever do get total control of the city government, Augusta will become like every other city ran by a liberal black government desitute. I would really like to think that we have enough blacks in this town to be elected and not have an "it's our turn now to payback" attitude. I know some, but would they be elected...doubtful.

itsanotherday1
54308
Points
itsanotherday1 03/04/13 - 12:23 pm
3
0
Very true Dee, there are very

Very true Dee, there are very well qualified people that meet the color criteria, but they won't win against the stink stirrers who play on emotions and divisiveness.

Sweet son
14017
Points
Sweet son 03/04/13 - 12:57 pm
3
0
Riverman suggests Deal takeover but

he has too many counties close to home with serious problems so we would be way down his list!

Fulton: Mayors questionable involvement with airport food. Clayton: Re-elected Sheriff under indictment. Dekalb: School Superintendent with questionable contractor contacts. Dekalb: Six school board members suspended. Dekalb: County government CEO being investigated.

But Riverman does have a good idea!

countyman
23053
Points
countyman 03/04/13 - 01:19 pm
4
3
Double standards & hypcrosisy

The 'outsiders' I blame are the usual suspects who bash Augusta everyday, but never mention the problems in their own backyards.

I do blame the local officials when they must up too.

This paper is also not the 'gospel', and everything you read is not actual facts. Let's not forget we have a majority black/democratic county with a majority white/conservative news paper.

I'm sure they would constantly praise West Augusta if they didn't consolidate, but for now it's mostly the Evans Chronicle.

willie7
1053
Points
willie7 03/04/13 - 01:53 pm
3
0
"In another incident, three
Unpublished

"In another incident, three commissioners are under attack from other commissioners for having violated the ethics code by doing business with the city. Commissioners Grady Smith (plumbing and mechanical), Wayne Guilfoyle (flooring) and Joe Jack­son (locksmithing) have received city business directly or indirectly since taking office.

None of the three appears to have used influence to get the work. But rules are rules – and rules are there precisely to prevent the exercising of such influence, or even the appearance of it.

The issue needs to be investigated fully, and any improperly earned funds returned. But fellow commissioners should also be cautious about needlessly dividing this elective body more than it already is".

Be cautious with these Commissioners-----WHY????

rebellious
22731
Points
rebellious 03/04/13 - 09:48 pm
2
0
I Know This Word Has Overtones

But anybody up for a good, Old Fashioned Seccession? Pull out, boys Pull out!!

When the pilot(s) are taking the plane into the mountain, and you have a parachute......Waddaya do? You bail. And, Oh by the way< there is a big ole sack of Sales Tax money, another filled with SPLOST money, and ....wait, what is that?... another bag full of TSPLOST money. Heavens to Murgatroid, Exit Stage Left.

Hephzibah, how big you wanna be?

Rattling Sabers? I don't know. People are reaching the breaking point. Desparate times require desparate measures.

harley_52
31393
Points
harley_52 03/04/13 - 09:55 pm
1
1
"The 'outsiders' I blame are the usual suspects....

....who bash Augusta everyday, but never mention the problems in their own backyards."

Wait a minute....

You mean there are problems in these other counties too?

If they have their own problems, why on earth would they continue to heap their insults and mockery on Richmond County?

Is it a racial thing?

harley_52
31393
Points
harley_52 03/04/13 - 10:35 pm
1
0
Okay, so.....

....what's the point in whining about it?

Is there a solution? Is there a process by which the structure introduced by Consolidation can be changed, or not?

Or, are we left only to whining and mocking?

Brad Owens
5223
Points
Brad Owens 03/05/13 - 10:29 pm
0
1
WOW!!!

I wonder when we will ACES call for more investigations into the TEE Center parking deck and all of the other items that DESERVE looking into. Kendrick's $25,000.00 "unapproved" raise? PEANUTS! How about the TEE Center that was a $40,000,000.00 government expense based on an "unsigned" and "undated" agreement?

I love selective outrage...

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