Originally created 09/14/99

Stealing statute on hold



Augusta Commissioner Bill Kuhlke's attempt to make stealing from the city a mandatory firing offense for municipal employees didn't get to first base in a commission committee Monday.

Mr. Kuhlke said he will try again next week with the full commission.

Mayor Pro Tem Lee Beard kept the proposed ordinance from being added to the administrative services committee's Monday agenda.

It takes unanimous consent for items to be added to a commission agenda, and Mr. Beard would not give his.

"Where I personally don't have any problem firing people who are caught stealing, the point is to me we need some time to look over this and see, because I think you have maybe an ordinance which is in existence at this particular time," Mr. Beard said.

"And my point would be we need to look and see what this is and possibly (have it) brought back to the next committee meeting. Sometimes I have problems with knee-jerk reactions, and I think this is one."

Mr. Kuhlke proposed the ordinance after the Augusta Personnel Board overturned City Administrator Randy Oliver's decision to fire trees and landscape supervisor Tony Martin for stealing city-owned azaleas.

Mr. Martin, son of Commissioner Freddie Handy, resigned Friday about two weeks after his reinstatement that created a public outcry.

The personnel board reinstated Mr. Martin partly because he had pleaded as a first offender, but he had a previous conviction in 1987, according to court records.

Commissioner J.B. Powell said the city's policies and procedures manual needed to be more detailed about specific offenses and punishments.

Mr. Oliver said it's impossible to include every possible offense, and those that might be omitted would "cause someone to jump to a conclusion that they were not supposed to be included."

"In my opinion, there are certain common-sense type things that are covered, but we'll look at it," Mr. Oliver said.

After the meeting, Mr. Kuhlke called the committee's action "sad."

"I'm just going to put it on the regular commission agenda next week," he said. "I don't know what will happen, but to me it's a no-brainer."

Mayor Bob Young said he assumed each commissioner had his own reason for supporting or objecting to the proposal.

"But I certainly don't see anything wrong with it," he said. "I believe that if you breach that trust you have with your employer, you should be immediately terminated."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.