Originally created 09/22/99

Officials approve new firing policy



Augusta commissioners approved an ordinance Tuesday that would make stealing from the government a mandatory firing offense.

Commissioner Freddie Handy made the motion to approve the ordinance proposed by Commissioner Bill Kuhlke. The Augusta Personnel Board overturned the firing of Mr. Handy's son, Tony Martin, who pleaded guilty to stealing azaleas from the city's trees and landscape department where he was an operations manager.

"I'd like to say to the mayor and commissioners I made the motion to accept this particular ordinance because we all know why it is here," Mr. Handy said. "But I want you all to know that Tony is my son. He will always be my son, and there's no way I can put him back in his mother's womb.

"I did not approve of what he did. I still don't approve of what he did. But he is my child. And I will always protect my child, no matter what happens. Thank you."

Mr. Martin resigned Sept. 10, about two weeks after his reinstatement.

The board reinstated him, partially because he had pleaded as a first offender, but discovered he'd had a previous conviction in 1987, according to court records.

On Tuesday, Mayor Pro Tem Lee Beard said he wanted to clear up something since he was "assassinated" by the media on the theft ordinance issue because he kept it off last week's administrative committee agenda.

Mr. Beard said he had "zero tolerance for theft and drugs" but commissioners have always agreed they wanted to review agenda items before voting on them.

"That's all I asked for Monday at the committee meeting," Mr. Beard said. "And that was taken out of context, that I was stupid, I was soft on crime, and all the other good things the media can find to say about me.

"My other point in that committee meeting is that we have an ordinance already. Why would we get another one? But the media failed to write that, especially the print media, what I said. But we do have that here, and it's already in effect."

The ordinance was submitted late and did not get on the committee agenda last week. Last-minute additions take unanimous consent, and Mr. Beard would not give his.

Commissioner J.B. Powell said the city's policies and procedures manual needs overhauling.

He said the city needed a manual similar to a military code of conduct.

Administrator Randy Oliver said city officials are doing that, and expect to have it completed Nov. 1.

Commission business

In other action Tuesday, Augusta commissioners:

*Heard an appeal from the attorney for Nordahl & Co. regarding a proposed subdivision that would be in violation of the city ordinance stating that houses in new subdivisions be as large as those contiguous to it. City Attorney Jim Wall told commissioners the ordinance was unconstitutional before they adopted it.

*Approved buying the lot in the block adjacent to the historic Ezekiel Harris House on Broad Street with state grant money, contingent on the owner William C. Howard demolishing the buildings on all four of the lots the former city and consolidated government bought from him. Mr. Howard also will be responsible for cleaning up ground-water contamination on the property if that is required.

The lot at the corner of Eve and Broad streets is contaminated with tetrachloroethylene, a dry cleaning solvent.

*Voted to limit the number of city boards and authorities a person may serve on to one, regardless of whether the commission or legislative delegation makes the appointment. People currently serving on multiple boards have 30 days to choose which board they want to remain on.

*Hired Michael Simmons as director for the Weed and Seed anti-crime program for Barton Chapel neighborhood.