Originally created 12/08/96

Former top city officials pack it in



When Linda Beazley went to work for Richmond County in 1957, the Municipal Building on Greene Street didn't even exist, and the sheriff's department had only two investigators.

The center of government operations was the old courthouse - later torn down to make way for the Marble Palace.

Only two other people are still working in the courthouse who were there when she first came - Superior Court Judge Franklin Pierce and Probate Court Judge Iree Pope.

And when Charles Dillard went to work for the city of Augusta as a resident engineer in 1968, many of the streets and alleys were unpaved and Riverwalk wasn't even a dream.

"We've done a tremendous amount of public works projects since then," Mr. Dillard said.

Ms. Beazley rose from clerk to Richmond County administrator and then interim administrator for Augusta's consolidated government this year, the only woman to hold the top administrative job.

"I've risen, and I have fallen," she said Thursday, the day after Mayor Larry Sconyers sent her and Mr. Dillard letters by messenger telling them their services are no longer needed since the permanent administrator Randy Oliver is on board.

Mr. Dillard also rose through the ranks to become the former city of Augusta's public works and engineering director, acting administrator, then interim administrator for operations under consolidation.

"And from there, I've been kicked out," he said.

Both are scheduled for early retirement Dec. 31 under an enhanced benefits plan that will allow them to draw almost full pay and $25,000 cash.

So they weren't as much injured by Mr. Sconyers' letter as they were insulted.

Ms. Beazley said she couldn't find the words to say what she thinks about the letter - but somehow did.

"I think the letter was absolutely unnecessary," she said tearfully. "Mr. Dillard and I both knew we had no titles, we had no authority, but we had been asked by Mr. Oliver to assist him, and we were more than ready, willing and able to do that."

"It would be interesting to know why there was a need for a letter."

The low-key Mr. Dillard, meanwhile, said he would have preferred to help Mr. Oliver through the transition and retire quietly.

"The perception to the public is you're being fired, which I understand they're saying that's not the case, and I realize that, but the perception of people is I'm being fired or given my walking papers," he said.

"I'm not bitter about that. I'm just a little disappointed it had to occur within three weeks of my retirement in receiving that type of notice."

Mr. Dillard said he would never create a controversy.

"I just thought I could in some way have something to share with the new administrator who's been here three days, and I've been here 29 years. I'm not saying that I still won't talk to him or do something like that, but as of right now I'm going to get out."

Ms. Beazley, however, said she'll go when she gets the loose ends tied up.

She contends Mr. Sconyers has rejected all of her attempts to assist him, starting with his swearing-in ceremony this year, and kept her and her staff in the dark about meetings and events.

"The mayor has not communicated with us," she said. "Since the first of the year, there's been very little interaction or communication. We have been available to assist in any way that we can, in any capacity. We have not been called on to give the mayor assistance."

Mr. Sconyers denied freezing Ms. Beazley out.

"I would say we have different management styles," he said. "It's nothing personal. This is business. You can't let personal feelings interfere with business.

"I don't know how the thing got all blown out of proportion," he added.

Mr. Sconyers said he had the support of the board to send the letter.

But he doesn't have the support of some employees, who were angry and puzzled Thursday.

"Mystified is what we are," said one who asked that her name not be used. "We can't figure out the reason for it. It wouldn't have hurt a thing to let Linda and Charles stay on until the end of the year."

Another said, "They talk about morale, and want us to be loyal to them. Why should we be loyal and cover their fannies when we see them treating the higher-ups like this?"

One retired city employee Bernon Williams said he knows first-hand of Mr. Dillard's knowledge and experience and thinks losing that is a bad mistake.

"It's going to mean a handicap for the city," Mr. Williams said. "Somebody doesn't know what they're doing."

Ms. Beazley has hinted in the past she could run for the commission or for mayor two years from now but Thursday she was non-committal.

Meanwhile, she summed up her life in the courthouse this way:

"I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to work 39« years in an environment that I really enjoyed. I just don't like being fired."