Originally created 05/07/00

Kent: 'No. 2' now No. 1 at Bush; Beul bombshell

AUGUSTA AVIATION Commission member Rodger Giles, in a letter published yesterday, took umbrage to last week's column item about the firing of Bush Field director Al McDill. He disputes my sentence that "the No. 2 administrative slot at the airport" was vacant when McDill was axed, and gave me a January 2000 organizational chart diagraming (now interim director) Tim Weegar as "No. 2." A parallel engineering/facilities manager slot is marked vacant, but Giles argues that's not the "No. 2 job."

In the spirit of fairness, let me share with readers his key rebuttal points:

"There were seven of us on the (Aviation) Commission dissatisfied with the philosophical differences of Mr. McDill, and that's why we terminated him. I talked with (City Attorney) Jim Wall, (City Administrator) Randy Oliver and, looking at this chart, verified that we in fact did have a second-in-command out there. As a matter of fact, 80 percent of the employees out there already answered to Tim Weegar."

"We continue to hear from (Aviation Commission Chairman) Ed Skinner that there was no interim plan, that the second position is vacant. ... even in this morning's paper (May 4). What that is doing is creating a morale problem. Tim Weegar is feeling frustration when the chairman says this, but the organization chart says differently."

"(Mr. Skinner) is a disgruntled commission member who lost his way. The very next day he met with Mayor Bob Young with the idea that he wanted to abolish the commission. Now if he had won that day, and we did not terminate Al McDill, would he still want to abolish the commission?"

Embarrassing arrest

Columbia County legislative delegation Chairman Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, has opposition from engineer Ron Beul in the July GOP primary. One letter writer has already questioned Beul's relationship with the seedy Renaissance firm which, six years ago, wined and dined Columbia commissioners to get a lucrative landfill contract. Beul chairs, then and now, the county's Solid Waste Management Authority -- but so far there's no evidence he did anything untoward.

However, a far more damaging bombshell has dropped. There's documentation that on Aug. 16, 1997, wife Becky called 911 and filed a complaint with the Columbia County Sheriff's Department against hubby because of what she says was bitter fighting over her oldest son (his stepson). Ron Beul was arrested and booked by a deputy, but the wife later decided not to pursue the charge -- even though she reported he was "grabbing my neck and threatening me." A police statement says Beul admitted they also had "a physical altercation in the past" and "went too far." Becky Beul now tells me "everything is settled," they had counseling and she will campaign for daddy dearest.

Sue getting back at Roy?

When qualifying as a July GOP primary opponent to Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, Sue Burmeister attacked him for "supporting" Democrat Gov. Roy Barnes too much. She especially ripped Williams' vote for the governor's education reform. Of all the many themes she could have chosen to emphasize (and some of her education ideas are good) why did she immediately go negative on the issue of the governor and his perceived friends?

Let's flash back to April 24, 1999, when The Chronicle revealed Burmeister was on a list given to Barnes to fill a slot on the state Board of Education. Republicans will be interested to know, at that time, the Parent-Teacher Association leader was Barnes' new best friend, soliciting business executives and especially Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta, to put in a good word for her with the guv. She's quoted in that April story saying, "I hope I get this because, boy, he (Barnes) is saying a lot of the same things I believe in."

Well, Burmeister never received that gubernatorial appointment -- and soon after emerged as a bitter and vocal foe of Barnes and his allies. Coincidence?

The judges v. Oliver

Randy Oliver is basically a good administrator for our city, but has gotten crossed up with Augusta's Superior Court judges over the price tag for a new downtown judicial building. It is a feud that, if it continues, will be a big disservice to Augusta.

A few weeks ago the city administrator juggled numbers and announced to the media the cost: an incredible $60 million. (It wasn't clear why, but Oliver inexplicably added four projects that had nothing to do with the center.) The Superior Court judges, especially, were miffed. Chief Judge William Fleming and Judge Duncan Wheale, in particular, emphasize that the overdue project (with the site to be recommended later) should only run about $40 million.

That's quite a monetary difference -- and obviously more palatable to Augusta voters who must decide whether to renew the local-option penny sales tax to fund this and other needed projects.

Phil Kent is senior editorial writer for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3327 or philkent@augustachronicle.com.


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