Originally created 02/07/98

Mayor may gain more power



Augusta legislators have summoned city commissioners to Atlanta on Wednesday to talk about changing the consolidation law.

They have in mind:

Giving the mayor authority to appoint the administrator and department heads, subject to confirmation by the commission.

Having the administrator and department heads report to the mayor.

Giving the mayor line-item veto power over the budget.

Giving the mayor authority to nominate the head of the law department or county attorney, subject to confirmation of the council.

Giving the mayor a vote on all issues, plus veto power.

Giving the mayor pro tem authority to appoint committees and chairmen subject to commission confirmation and having him preside at commission meetings.

State Rep. Robin Williams, RAugusta, said the changes would create two branches of city government -- the executive mayoral branch and the legislative commission branch -- which would have to work together.

Several city officials said a key motive for the changes is to get rid of Administrator Randy Oliver, whose willingness to provide public records irks some commissioners, but Mr. Williams denied it.

"In anything I'm proposing, Randy Oliver's contract is as good as it was the day it was written," Mr. Williams said. "In fact, what I'm proposing won't even go into effect until January 1999."

But some insist Mr. Oliver is the target.

"Randy Oliver is placed in an untenable position," said former Commissioner Rob Zetterberg. "He's the only one there to answer a question, and then when he does answer a question, people take potshots at him."

Mr. Zetterberg is considering running for mayor this fall.

Mr. Williams also said no plans are afoot to change the current legal setup, despite a proposal to the contrary.

"Now the legal department is not in this," he said.

Commissioners, meanwhile, had their own list of things they wanted to talk to the delegation about, mostly money issues and how to get more of it to the city government.

They also want the delegation to stop appointing members to Augusta boards and commissions.

Several were miffed that delegation chairman Jack Connell's letter outlining the proposals made no reference to their resolutions.

Thursday, during a trip to Atlanta, Commissioners Bill Kuhlke and Jerry Brigham spoke to Mr. Connell, who said the delegation had not received them.

The only issues Commissioner Moses Todd wants the delegation to consider are the 10 resolutions the board faxed to them Thursday, he said.

"The best local legislators are those that don't initiate local legislation but push legislation that's ratified by a majority of elected officials in a political subdivision," Mr. Todd said.

Mr. Kuhlke said the delegation should not make changes to the law without letting the voters who approved the original bill vote on them.

"I personally prefer not to see a handful of people change the charter," he said.

Commissioner Ulmer Bridges said he sees a definite need to improve the mayor's authority and position with a vote and a veto but sees no need to change anything else.

City Attorney Jim Wall said changing the mayor's power would not require a referendum but would require review by the U.S. Justice Department. Changes that would make the administrator, department heads and attorney answer to the mayor would not require Justice Department review, he said.

BYLINE1:By Sylvia Cooper

BYLINE2:Staff Writer

Augusta legislators have summoned city commissioners to Atlanta on Wednesday to talk about changing the consolidation law.

They have in mind:

Giving the mayor authority to appoint the administrator and department heads, subject to confirmation by the commission.

Having the administrator and department heads report to the mayor.

Giving the mayor lineitem veto power over the budget.

Giving the mayor authority to nominate the head of the law department or county attorney, subject to confirmation of the council.

Giving the mayor a vote on all issues, plus veto power.

Giving the mayor pro tem authority to appoint committees and chairmen subject to commission confirmation and having him preside at commission meetings.

State Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, said the changes would create two branches of city government -- the executive mayoral branch and the legislative commission branch -- which would have to work together.

Several city officials said a key motive for the changes is to get rid of Administrator Randy Oliver, whose willingness to provide public records irks some commissioners, but Mr. Williams denied it.

"In anything I'm proposing, Randy Oliver's contract is as good as it was the day it was written," Mr. Williams said. "In fact, what I'm proposing won't even go into effect until January 1999."

But some insist Mr. Oliver is the target.

"Randy Oliver is placed in an untenable position," said former Commissioner Rob Zetterberg. "He's the only one there to answer a question, and then when he does answer a question, people take potshots at him."

Mr. Zetterberg is considering running for mayor this fall.

Mr. Williams also said no plans are afoot to change the current legal setup, despite a proposal to the contrary.

"Now the legal department is not in this," he said.

Commissioners, meanwhile, had their own list of things they wanted to talk to the delegation about, mostly money issues and how to get more of it to the city government.

They also want the delegation to stop appointing members to Augusta boards and commissions.

Several were miffed that delegation chairman Jack Connell's letter outlining the proposals made no reference to their resolutions.

Thursday, during a trip to Atlanta, Commissioners Bill Kuhlke and Jerry Brigham spoke to Mr. Connell, who said the delegation had not received them.

The only issues Commissioner Moses Todd wants the delegation to consider are the 10 resolutions the board faxed to them Thursday, he said.

"The best local legislators are those that don't initiate local legislation but push legislation that's ratified by a majority of elected officials in a political subdivision," Mr. Todd said.

Mr. Kuhlke said the delegation should not make changes to the law without letting the voters who approved the original bill vote on them.

"I personally prefer not to see a handful of people change the charter," he said.

Commissioner Ulmer Bridges said he sees a definite need to improve the mayor's authority and position with a vote and a veto but sees no need to change anything else.

City Attorney Jim Wall said changing the mayor's power would not require a referendum but would require review by the U.S. Justice Department. Changes that would make the administrator, department heads and attorney answer to the mayor would not require Justice Department review, he said.