Originally created 01/06/02

Beard's costly mistake



If Augusta Commissioner Lee Beard wants to run the fire department, we know of a chief's position that needs to be filled. We encourage him to pick up an application.

If not, then he should tell the acting fire chief that City Administrator George Kolb is his supervisor, and that he shouldn't come running to Beard to solve his every problem.

Last week's budget-busting decisions included adding $500,000 back into the city budget for the fire department, and raising taxes to do so.

It happened because interim Fire Chief Carl Scott didn't know his department was giving up $500,000 out of its $16 million budget, and when he found out, he went to his guardian angel, Commissioner Beard, telling him he just could not live without the $500,000. This, even though he had 28 positions go unfilled during the 2001 fiscal year.

Beard rallied the commission majority and soon the money was back in the fire services budget.

This end-run caper is one reason why the city needs a real fire chief. Scott apparently was not plugged into the budget process enough to know that the city administrator had asked him for the $500,000. Maybe Scott just wasn't paying attention. Or maybe budgeting just isn't his thing.

If the commission had allowed Kolb to hire a fire chief of his choice, this wouldn't have happened. The chief would have gone to his boss.

But we digress. The point is that if department heads know they can do an end run around the city administrator, there will never be any budget discipline at the Municipal Building. For that matter, there won't be any discipline in the ranks at all.

And that adds up to a badly run organization.

When we criticize commissioners for micro-managing departments, this is exactly the kind of misbehavior we're talking about. It needs to stop.