Originally created 08/17/00

Few pays $642 bill for calls



Former Augusta Fire Chief Ronnie Few reimbursed the city $642 on Wednesday for personal calls he made on his city-issued cell phone this year.

That payment and a $97.08 check Deputy Chief Carl Scott delivered from Chief Few to city hall Tuesday wipes the slate clean as far as City Administrator Randy Oliver is concerned.

"It's a close approximation to the amount, and I consider the issue resolved," Mr. Oliver said Wednesday.

Mr. Scott said Chief Few gave him the $97.08 check dated July 7 on June 9 before he left the city for Washington to become chief there, and the check was misplaced in his office.

On Wednesday, city finance and purchasing department employees combed through Chief Few's cell phone bills and identified $739.08 worth of calls. Calls he made to his residence were not included in the tallying. They also did not consider dozens of incoming calls for possible reimbursement because the caller's number is not recorded on the bills.

Augusta Commissioner Lee Beard supplied a blank check with Chief Few's signature, and the bill was paid, city finance department personnel said.

The Augusta Chronicle reported Sunday that taxpayers paid $2,855.48 for Chief Few to talk on his cell phone the first six months of this year and that dozens of those calls were personal. Taxpayers paid $2,386.89 for Public Information Officer Katrice Bryant's cell phone calls, many of which also were personal.

Ms. Bryant reimbursed the city $270.77 last week.

According to the phone records, about a third of Chief Few's calls were personal. They were made to relatives, friends, two insurance agencies in South Carolina, his home, and to a Beech Island residence and voice mail. The number to the Beech Island residence has been changed to a nonpublished number, and the voice mail was disconnected in the past week.

One five-minute call was to the number of a plastic surgeon's office in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Mr. Oliver sent Chief Few a certified letter two weeks ago in Washington asking for reimbursement after he received a copy of the former chief's $970.71 June cell phone bill. The bill actually totaled $1,504.79, but $533.88 of it had to do with cell phone equipment the chief had purchased, city officials said.

Chief Few's June bill was higher than the combined bills of Mr. Oliver, the tax assessor, the city attorney, two coroners, four district attorneys, the emergency management director and the 10 other cell phones assigned to the fire department - four of which are in vehicles. The bills for those phones totaled $840.83.

Ms. Bryant's $574.85 June cell-phone bill was higher than those of the entire utilities department, which has 11 phones.

The fire department's bills represent 30 percent of the entire city government's cell phone budget. The average monthly cost of each of the fire department's 12 phones through July was $115. By comparison, the average monthly cost of each of the Recreation Department's 15 phones was $49.37, and Public Works' 20 phones averaged $43.06 each per month.

Chief Few did not return a telephone message left at his office in Washington on Wednesday seeking comment.

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