The Augusta-Richmond County Personnel Board's appalling 6-3 ruling, reinstating a petty thief to a supervisory role over the people who turned him in, violates every canon of good government and common sense!
It's also an in-your-face rejection of city Administrator Randy Oliver's request that Tony Martin be fired. Martin, suspended from his Trees and Parks Department management post last February after being seen stealing 10 city-owned azalea bushes, pled guilty to misdemeanor theft by taking last month.
Six members of the panel were influenced in its shamelessly bad judgment because Martin is the son of Augusta Commissioner Freddie Handy. The Board members who are Handy's political stooges are Collis Ivey, Venus Cain, Al Ferguson, Charles Walker Jr. and Charlie McCann. The sixth vote was provided by Mike Brockman.
The Board was also swayed by defense attorney John Long's claim that his client's plea fell under Georgia's First Offender Act and, "You can't fire him on the basis of a first offender."
The First Offender statute also means Martin's criminal record will eventually be purged if he stays out of trouble after serving his 12-month probated sentence. The problem is Martin apparently lied when he said the azalea theft was his one and only crime.
Richmond County State Court Solicitor Sheryl Jolly reported she has strong evidence -- including a fingerprint match from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation -- showing that Martin was convicted in 1987 of theft by receiving.
This makes a shambles of his First Offender claims. However, Jolly's information came too late for either the court or the Personnel panel to take into account.
But whether it's a first or second offense shouldn't matter. Stealing is stealing and the thief should not be rewarded by being reinstated to a post that will enable him to get back at the underlings who blew the whistle on him. This kind of thing could only happen in government. It would never be tolerated in the private sector.
This is what prompted Mayor Bob Young to note the Martin incident provides "a glaring example of why we need character training in city government."
It also provides a glaring example of why the Personnel Board should be abolished. Hiring and firing decisions should be made by competent city administrators, like Randy Oliver.
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