City Parks and Recreation Director Tom Beck won an appeal before Augusta Commissioners Tuesday and avoided a weeklong suspension handed to him nearly three weeks ago after an investigation into his department's hiring practices.
A vote to rescind City Administrator Randy Oliver's recommendation to suspend Mr. Beck passed with a 6-2 vote: Commissioners Ulmer Bridges, Henry Brigham, Jerry Brigham, Bill Khulke, Steve Shepard and Andy Cheek voted to overrule the suspension; Lee Beard and Marion Williams voted to uphold Mr. Oliver's recommendation. Willie Mays and Richard Colclough abstained.
In his statement to the Augusta Commission, Mr. Beck characterized the past three weeks as the most difficult of his 23-year career in the county's Parks and Recreation Department.
"I didn't realize my own character would be tested the way it has been the past three weeks," Mr. Beck said. "I am not a quitter; ... to put myself through this (appeals) experience is proof positive."
Mr. Beck explained that the decisions he made in his department were never deceptive, but were fiscally responsible and fair.
He was notified Aug. 16 of the five-day suspension without pay. The letter of suspension, written by Mr. Oliver, cited several issues discovered during a department inquiry conducted by the county's Equal Employment Opportunity director.
The Fair Labor Standards Act says that the minimum amount of time an employee can be suspended without pay is five days.
"While I wasn't comfortable with five days, a written reprimand wasn't appropriate," Mr. Oliver said.
In other action, commissioners appointed Teresa Smith as the new director of public works. Ms. Smith has been an Augusta-Richmond County preconstruction engineer since October 1998. She beat out candidate Jack McDonald, who is director of capital projects for Jefferson Parrish, La., with a 7-3 vote. Mr. McDonald was the candidate recommended to commissioners by the city administrator.
The commission also appointed Deputy Chief of Operations Carl Scott to serve as interim fire chief while the city searches for a permanent replacement.
Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.