When an official from the U.S. Justice Department sat in on an Augusta Commission meeting last week, certain commissioners, known for their grandstanding antics, were on their best behavior. The investigator left too soon.
Rowdies Marion Williams and Willie Mays had been tipped off about the fact-finder's visit, and they were going to give him very little to chew on.
But as soon as fact-finder Ozell Sutton left the building, the mayhem began anew. All the Justice Department has to do to learn the facts is review the tapes of the rest of the meeting and all meetings that have been taped by Comcast.
They don't tell the whole story, but they're a start.
In reviewing the rest of last week's meeting, Sutton would discover that Williams' pent-up rage burst the dam: "If you cut the head off, the feet are going to get in line. So I think we should start with the administrator and work our way down and let people know we mean business," he said. That's his way of proposing to fire City Administrator George Kolb, who has only been on the job since May 2001. Kolb, unrepenting in his fairness, just won't kowtow to the thugs running the show on the commission. He's trying to operate the city efficiently and professionally.
Justice officials can also review findings of the biracial Special Grand Jury, who a year ago pointed out that Augusta's government was headed for certain disaster if it keeps on its current course of race-based politics. The worst racists were blacks on the commission, the grand jury said.
Or officials could review the minutes of the specially appointed biracial charter committee, that reviewed the city charter and made recommendations to reduce racial discord on the commission. The recommendations were ignored by the commission majority.
The Justice officials could look at a poll conducted by Augusta State University under the supervision of professor Ralph Walker, which showed that 51 percent of residents think the mayor should be given a regular vote on the commission, compared with 29 percent who said he shouldn't. The poll was ignored by the commission.
Justice officials could examine the record on abstentions on the commission.
Or Sutton could skip all that and go to a single recent incident that tells the whole story of racism and corruption: The CSRA Waste contract.
After CSRA Waste's owner, Kester Uzochukwu, was shown to have been skipping out on landfill fees to the tune of as much as $200,000, the question came up as to whether he had breached the contract and whether the city should cancel it. Regardless of whether he will be convicted of a crime, there is sufficient evidence to allow the city to cancel the contract.
The commission went behind closed doors to discuss and decide: All the blacks voted to keep the contract; the whites voted to cancel it. Blacks on the commission are protecting Uzochukwu from the consequences of his actions.
Let's go to the evidence locker, where we find a 2001 entry in Uzochukwu's personal calendar, showing him meeting with "My champions - Lee Beard and Marion Williams."
Readers may recall that Beard and Williams have defended Uzochukwu, with Williams claiming that the garbage hauler's arrest was racially motivated.
Will the Justice Department take a closer look at that situation?
It is, in a nutshell, the story of what is wrong with the Augusta Commission.