Officials' bullying has to stop now

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In discussion, a Commissioner may condemn the nature of likely consequences of the proposed measure in strong terms, but must avoid a discussion of personalities, and under no circumstances may he/she attack or question the motives of another Commissioner or staff.

– from the Decorum of Debate section of the Augusta Commission Rules of Procedure, adopted July 3, 1996

Unfortunately, the statement above does not resemble in any way the caustic and damaging tone set forth by our current Augusta Commission, where the motives of our staff are publicly attacked by individual commissioners who seem hell-bent on belittling, berating and bullying city employees.

I have long shared with the public and our commissioners that I believe it is extremely duplicitous to ask city employees to adhere to rules and procedures governing their actions if elected officials do not first demonstrate the ability to hold ourselves accountable to those rules of procedure that govern our own behavior.

What message does it send to our community’s youth when they are asked to sign no-bullying contracts in their schools while their elected officials continue to act in this manner, while refusing to even take the small step of re-affirming the Code of Conduct already in place?

It sends the message that elected officials can act any way they see fit without consequences. I would like to share with our citizens just how damaging the consequences of these actions can be for all of us.

After being elected to office, every official in the state must complete a Newly Elected Official training course. In the legal portion of the course, new officials are reminded repeatedly never to play out personnel issues publicly. Doing so creates a tremendous amount of legal liability; it gives terminated employees grounds for filing lawsuits.

As the longest-serving member of our local elected body, I have watched for more than six years as this sound advice has gone unheeded, and our city repeatedly has had to defend lawsuits from former employees who were tried and convicted in the court of public opinion by overzealous elected officials who sought the media spotlight as opposed to considering the best interests of the citizens they serve, since taxpayer dollars are used to defend these lawsuits.

Another consequence of these actions is that they feed and foster a culture of fear and intimidation that puts our city at a competitive disadvantage for recruiting employees. I constantly remind commissioners that we do not operate in a vacuum. Our meetings and our local media coverage are available to a worldwide audience online.

THIS SAME CULTURE of intimidation – in which employees live in fear of attracting the wrath of an individual commissioner, to then be publicly dragged through the mud while running the risk of damaging their personal reputations and their career options – is on display for the world to see.

Over time, a business that cannot attract and retain the most qualified employees will be outpaced by competitors. The same principle applies to local governments.

In these difficult economic times, economic development and business recruitment has become even more competitive. Having worked with our local economic development team for many years, Augusta has done well recruiting new businesses and helping businesses grow.

However, in this competitive environment for businesses looking to locate here vs. other cities, many factors affect the decision-making. With all things being equal, from cost of living to incentives packages, if a competing city has a more stable and less controversial governing body, the scales are tipped in its favor.

Although we’re doing well, we will never know what we’ve lost. The direct consequence of commissioners grandstanding, pushing personal agendas and courting controversy ultimately is not creating jobs and opportunity at the rate we’re capable of, while taking money out of citizens’ pockets and food off their tables.

To support a business-friendly environment, it is extremely important to support existing businesses that create jobs for, and invest in, our community.

ONE SUCH BUSINESS is Automatic Data Processing, a major employer that has 800 employees while continuing to grow right here in Augusta. Several years ago, ADP invested heavily in our institutions of higher learning by equally dividing a $600,000 grant among Paine College, Augusta Technical College and Augusta State University.

This Fortune 300 company recently was dragged through the mud, with its reputation impugned by individual commissioners during ongoing discussions for the potential for ADP to become further involved with handling our city’s human resources functions. It remains to be seen whether this will happen and whether it would be cost-effective for the city to pursue this option, but the way in which a major employer for, and investor in, our community was treated through the process cannot have any positive impact on our business recruitment efforts.

Over the past six years as mayor, I have shared with individuals and organizations that I consider myself extraordinarily blessed to have the overwhelming support of the vast majority of the city that I serve.

I also have shared that those individuals and families who are the foundation of my support generally are not the people who grouse and complain through websites, blogs and silly Facebook pages where adults behaving in the most childish manner possible actually invest hours out of each day in trafficking in rumor, innuendo and misinformation while seeing who can act the most absurd.

To change the tenor of the situation we now find ourselves in – and to keep these actions from having further damaging consequences for the city we love and are blessed to call home – our local elected officials need to hear an overwhelming, albeit respectful, message from citizens and businesses throughout Augusta that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated.

I’ll continue to do my part and ask that you all do yours.

(The writer was first elected mayor of Augusta in 2005.)

Comments (32) Add comment
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Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/05/12 - 12:21 am
0
0
1) The lawsuits by former

1) The lawsuits by former employees have nothing to do with public comments and everything to do with a government incapable of documenting the poor performance that led to their firing.

2) The issues raised about ADP sounded legitimate to me and they were raised by third-highest ranking member in our government - the deputy administrator.

3) Deke preaching about leadership is laughable. When he has an opportunity to lead (i.e. riots at Cherry Tree Crossing, redistricting, etc) he runs and hides at his fancy beach house in another state. If that is leadership, I hope no one follows.

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 02/05/12 - 02:08 am
0
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Suspect motives should be

Suspect motives should be questioned in open session. The days of "go along to get along," as well as of behind-the-scenes and behind-closed-doors arrangements have not been good for The Garden City of The South.

As HST said, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

corgimom
34064
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corgimom 02/05/12 - 09:29 am
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I seem to remember a silly

I seem to remember a silly Facebook war conducted by Deke and Austin Rhodes in which an extremely absurd challenge was issued by Deke for Austin to compete in an Ironman competition. And it was very childish.

Guess it's different when Deke does it.

Riverman1
86917
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Riverman1 02/05/12 - 10:09 am
0
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Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman,

Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman, where do I start? The things people say about you on the internet hurt your feelings? I’m sorry, but you have to understand the internet has changed the world about as much as the moveable press. Sure it makes the public relations firms and political advisors you paid to build connections with the churches and those who can deliver the vote less effective, but you can’t expect us to ban the internet in Augusta just for you. Now can we?

Sylvia calls you the Boy King, but you have to understand those not wearing Speedos, but wearing big boy pants are out here on the internet fending for ourselves with our wits and ability, not using intimidation or financial pressures and not seeking rewards to say what we find to be factual.

Pay attention now, the internet has caused changes of government in countries all over the world, it has affected political campaigns in the U.S. like nothing before and it has uncovered malfeasance in Augusta politics like it were a forensic auditor. If you don’t like something we say, you can come here as Joe Bowles does, and rebut it using your own intellect and passion as we do.

By the way, your edict that businesses in the area not tolerate those expressing negative opinions (employees, I assume) of you will not scare internet commenters. I’m pretty sure it will encourage them/us/me. I'm not afraid of an aide stomping on my foot like I were a Ron Paul supporter standing next to Newt Gingrich.

seenitB4
90795
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seenitB4 02/05/12 - 10:22 am
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River that is a mouthfull &

River that is a mouthfull & so accurate...I agree 100%.

The internet has changed the world.....there is no going back to the ole days......the sword has 2 sides doesn't it...it can topple countries .....why would anyone think it couldn't change LOCAL politics..

Riverman1
86917
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Riverman1 02/05/12 - 10:53 am
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0
Deke just gets so petulant,

Deke just gets so petulant, sulky, peevish and huffy when he is criticized. That’s why he wanted a physical challenge with Austin. We need a Larry Sconyers type whose only physical challenge would be who can eat the most BBQ hash on rice. (Dang typo)

willie7
984
Points
willie7 02/05/12 - 10:43 am
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0
Deke, are you afraid of the
Unpublished

Deke, are you afraid of the audit that will be done on the TEE Center parking deck?To be honest, and I have tried to be impartial about the situation, it doesn't seem to pass the " Smell Test".

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 02/05/12 - 11:03 am
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deke, it gets better.
Unpublished

deke, it gets better.

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 02/05/12 - 11:10 am
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911 Dispatcher: 911 What is
Unpublished

911 Dispatcher: 911 What is your emergency?

Caller: Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh

911 Dispatcher: Can you please speak clearer?

Caller: WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH

911 Dispatcher: Hold the line...a WHAMBULANCE is rolling now

Willow Bailey
20603
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Willow Bailey 02/05/12 - 11:30 am
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I do agree that we should all

I do agree that we should all behave respectfully towards one another, regardless of whether we agree on an issue. However, to suggest that we should not look into or question one's motivation behind their beliefs, interests or actions; and that conflict handled properly, is a bad thing, is simply not true.

Conflict handled properly does not destroy relationships; it builds them. Without it, we live dishonestly and never accomplish anything that holds.

The mayor is under a lot of pressure to deliver and without much power, either governmentally or personally, although there appears to be those financially behind him, pushing their agenda at all times. It's almost impossible for a person who has a passive personality to be an effective leader. Sometimes, we just have to say, "this isn't my calling".

Conservative Man
5577
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Conservative Man 02/05/12 - 12:55 pm
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I understand the Mayor's

I understand the Mayor's frustration with the recent return of acrimony on the Commission. But to blame everyone else without accepting part of the blame himself makes him look childish and petulant.
Mr. Mayor, it takes two to argue.
Moreover,the recent turn in attitudes during committe, and Commission meetings have a basis in fact. There are TONS of people who are tired of hearing the same old "move the city forward" bromide that most commissioners and the Mayor use whenever any of their "pet projects" are questioned.
Give us details gentlemen...unless the details are what you are trying to hide. We're grown-ups. We can take it..
Lastly...I feel that most of the frustration being experienced by our elected leaders is projected onto them by those who have pulled the puppet strings in this city with little or no interference from the "great unwashed." The "great unwashed"being those silly Facebook types and bloggers.
I don't profess to know enough about whether the TEE Center deal was right, wrong...legal or not legal. But it's obvious this column was pointed directly at those who are attempting to get to the bottom of the issue once and for all.
Do the audit, get it over with,...THEN, to quote every sitting Commissioner and the Mayor, we "Move the city forward".

raul
5323
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raul 02/05/12 - 11:58 am
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@ConservativeMan. Nicely

@ConservativeMan. Nicely stated.

dichotomy
34415
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dichotomy 02/05/12 - 12:54 pm
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"the people who grouse and

"the people who grouse and complain through websites, blogs"

I represent that remark. Sorry Deke, but perception is reality. When I see something coming out of the "City of Augusta" that changes my "County of Richmond" perception I will call it like I see it. For 15 years I ain't seen it. When we on the south end have seen is the deterioration of our end of the county as the city relocates it's Section 8/welfare people to our neighborhoods and then uses our tax money to "redevelop" it's neighborhoods and subsidize wealthy downtown businessmen to build "their" projects. And then, when we complain about our retail and restaurant businesses closing and no new ones coming out this way, you have the audacity to tell us that it's because of our demographics. The demographics the CITY changed with Section 8. Well our demographics were just fine for retail and restaurants before Consolidation and the sucking out of our tax money for DOWNTOWN redevelopment. I can assure you that I, for one, will continue to grouse and complain until I see our tax money coming back to our districts. And I don't mean a trail head and B-ball court.....or even a whole park. I am talking about some of the nicer things that USED to be here before the City drove them out with their policies and disproportionate distribution of the tax money.

chel
0
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chel 02/05/12 - 01:12 pm
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@dichotomy- very well said.

@dichotomy- very well said. So I guess by reading Mayor Deke's complaints, if you are a tax paying, property owning, and law abiding citizen you are not to have an opinion or allowed to ask questions about why certain groups are benefiting financially at the tax payers expense? Hmmmm...let's see Mayor Deke if you understand what it is like to have a neighbor who for 6 years was allowed to not follow code enforcement laws, had condemned buildings that enticed squatters who destroyed our properties and yet this neighbor was allowed to benefit financially by the tax payers and other monies to sell HIS dilapidated properties to the city on Pine Street for profits in the Laney Walker/Bethlehem development? However we as property owners and tax payers are just suppose to sit down and shut up? Okay...I get it now. Thanks for making it clear for us! I guess since our neighbor had the right "connections" and "friends" he is allowed to break laws and since we are not connected with "certain groups" we just lose out....thanks for that clarification.

harley_52
23959
Points
harley_52 02/05/12 - 02:15 pm
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0
My mother told me a very long

My mother told me a very long time ago that if someone is bothering you, whine about it and you'll get more of it. Ignore it and it will probably stop.

Mr. Mayor, I think you missed that lesson.

broad street narrow mind
348
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broad street narrow mind 02/05/12 - 05:38 pm
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good thing deke tells us how
Unpublished

good thing deke tells us how popular he is right up front or i'd never guess from the comments. kinda like how augusta wants his new ironman ripken taxodrome. i only get this news from him.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 02/05/12 - 05:16 pm
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When are you gonna quit
Unpublished

When are you gonna quit bullying the taxpayers of ARC for a new Ripken tax funded mix use ballpark/facility? When you quit we will too!!

Riverman1
86917
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Riverman1 02/05/12 - 05:54 pm
0
0
Deke said, "I also have

Deke said, "I also have shared that those individuals and families who are the foundation of my support generally are not the people who grouse and complain through websites, blogs and silly Facebook pages where adults behaving in the most childish manner possible actually invest hours out of each day in trafficking in rumor, innuendo and misinformation while seeing who can act the most absurd."

I think that means, y'all stay dumb and just support whatever I tell you. This fits so close what someone influential and concerned about good government in Augusta told me. She said it is the goal of those in power to keep Augusta government dysfunctional and the people uninformed.

eb97
835
Points
eb97 02/05/12 - 05:55 pm
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A good rule of thumb, Mr.

A good rule of thumb, Mr. Mayor, is to never talk down to those you were elected to serve.

Riverman1
86917
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Riverman1 02/05/12 - 06:04 pm
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Since Deke has slammed

Since Deke has slammed internet posters, I have a plan. Deke, if you don’t forward my reply to your opinion piece to at least 10 people you will have bad luck, lose your friends, lose your mailing lists to all the church voters and will see continuous pop-ups screens. In addition Bill Gates will not send you money when he gives it to the rest of us. Plus your phone will ring mysteriously immediately after you close this post without forwarding. The internet hex will be on. We’ll see who’s silly then... behaving in the most childish manner possible, trafficking in rumor, innuendo and misinformation while seeing who can act the most absurd.

Little Lamb
46920
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Little Lamb 02/05/12 - 06:08 pm
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Mayor Copenhaver asked: What

Mayor Copenhaver asked:

What message does it send to our community’s youth when they are asked to sign no-bullying contracts in their schools while their elected officials continue to act in this manner, while refusing to even take the small step of re-affirming the Code of Conduct already in place?

A gentleman does not need to re-affirm something he has already given his word to. Move on, Mayor.

Willow Bailey
20603
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Willow Bailey 02/05/12 - 07:47 pm
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0
When you get right down to

When you get right down to it; this is just such a silly letter.

I would just suppose Mr.Mayor will have much greater concerns than internet bloggers and facebook users when that audit hits the fan. I will tell you the real problem is that social media has empowered many who otherwise would not know each other to come together and communicate about the issues. Very upsetting when the establishment wants to maintain control by silencing the voters.

He's getting worse with the Public Relations person on board. Maybe he doesn't run this stuff by her.

Lori Davis
958
Points
Lori Davis 02/05/12 - 07:57 pm
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Hey, Willow, Come to

Hey, Willow, Come to Commission meeting on Tuesday and see the silly citizens show the power that they have amassed. It will be worth it for sure.

KSL
134450
Points
KSL 02/05/12 - 08:12 pm
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0
Ii can not imagine a real

Ii can not imagine a real leader stooplng to write a letter to the Editor of the local paper like this.

If the mayor has to take his concerns public in a newspaper, there is something very wrong with the system of government that the citizens of Richmond Comfy chose.

Imagine Obama writing s letter to the newspaper like this. Then again, it might just keep him too busy to further damage our country.

Willow Bailey
20603
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Willow Bailey 02/05/12 - 08:20 pm
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Lori, I would love to be

Lori, I would love to be present, but I will be out of town for the week. I will be thinking of all of you and keeping up with the meeting via Iphone. Looking forward to the video tapes. And many kudos for your efforts towards good government for all of the people.

Lori Davis
958
Points
Lori Davis 02/05/12 - 08:27 pm
0
0
Thanks Willow for all of your

Thanks Willow for all of your support! Also KSL it is all being done because a very strong citizens group is presenting to Commission on Tuesday some very damning evidence to the city. Might want to come join us and see what a silly group of people can accomplish.

countyman
20588
Points
countyman 02/05/12 - 08:48 pm
0
0
The Laney Walker/Bethlehem

The Laney Walker/Bethlehem project is being paid for by the tourist coming to Augusta.. The citizens of Richmond County don't live at the Sheraton, Marriott, or DoubleTree...

Keep up the good work Deke.. The majority of citizens do notice the major developments here in Augusta.. That's why you've won two straight elections with over 60% of the vote..

ADP, T-Mobile, Electrolux, Global Emergency Resource, Convergent, etc in West Augusta.. Rockwood, Bennett International, Algae Bioenergy, Augusta Newsprint, etc in South Augusta.. ESI, Rural Sourcing, Sutherland Mill, etc downtown.. PCS Nitrogen in East Augusta and FPL Foods in Laney Walker..

By the end of 2012 and early 2013 even the critics will have to give credit when it's due.. New Hyatt, Marriott, & Hilton brand hotels, construction occurring at the 115 acre retail/hotel/restaurant development with Costco, construction underway at Wheeler Town Park(Carmax area), 25 acre shopping center/10k sq. ft. Shoppes at Dyess Park(Jimmie Dyess-Harper Franklin), and the new urban Walmart opening(Wrightsboro rd).. The long rumored Target, Chick Fil A, and Ruby Tuesday shopping center might be announced in 2013.. The widening of Bobby Jones from Gordon Hwy to Deans Bridge rd starts this year in South Augusta..

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 02/05/12 - 09:27 pm
0
0
Wow, countyman, so "Obama"

Wow, countyman, so "Obama" of you. You'd have us believe that the mayor is personally responsible for every good private investment that has come into Augusta. Let me guess, anything bad came from his predecessor or just those nasty bloggers?

Riverman1
86917
Points
Riverman1 02/05/12 - 09:36 pm
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0
Countman, you gave Mayor

Countman, you gave Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman credit for everything, but the Augusta National.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 02/05/12 - 10:08 pm
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0
countyman, taking your cues

countyman, taking your cues from Saul Alinsky?

If you keep repeating it over and over and over, maybe people will start to believe it.

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