Originally created 09/17/06

City Ink

Correction, September 21, 2006: A statement in Sunday's City Ink column said that Richmond County Board of Elections member Tim Moses used the word ineligible in reference to former interim District 4 Commissioner Keith Brown during a Sept. 11 elections board meeting. Mr. Moses did not use the word ineligible in asking whether Mr. Brown had repaid any of the money he received from the city during his three months on the commission. The Chronicle regrets the error.

The theme of this week's column is "Where do you live, really?"

CSRAHelp founder Woody Merry and Melanie Roy say mayoral candidate Ronnie Few must live in Columbia County because that's where he filed homestead exemption.

Mr. Few says he lives at 1 Seventh St., a big pink building on the river in downtown Augusta formerly known (and still known to some) as Port Royal.

A mystery woman from Hephzibah says Mayor Deke Copenhaver isn't eligible to run in November because he lived in North Augusta last year. I say "mystery woman" because nobody I know knows anything about her except her name, Diane Moss.

At Thursday's mayoral forum at Eastview Community Center, when they were asked, "What's the truth about your residency?" Mr. Few said he might have made a mistake about filing for homestead exemption but that there was no mistake about where he lived.

Mr. Copenhaver said, "Me, Elvis and the Easter Bunny live together in North Augusta."

A PAIN TO ABSTAIN: The Richmond County Board of Elections met last week to set a hearing on Mr. Merry's and Ms. Roy's challenges to Mr. Few's candidacy. Board member Tim Moses, who had said earlier he wouldn't abstain from voting on the matter, looked down in the mouth before announcing he would abstain after all because Mr. Copenhaver asked him to.

Mr. Moses, you will recall, was Mr. Copenhaver's campaign manager last year, and his votes on matters concerning Mr. Few's political fate had the potential of becoming a cause clbre.

A crowd of Mr. Few's supporters attended the hearing. No one was smiling.

FRESH OUT: The elections board also rejected former interim District 4 Commissioner Keith Brown's request for a refund of his $360 filing fee, seeing as how the board said he couldn't run in November. Mr. Moses asked whether Mr. Brown had refunded any of the money he received from the city during his three-month tenure as an ineligible commissioner. But board member Mtesa Cotemond-Wright said that was a question for another day.

Board Chairwoman Linda Beazley said the board didn't have any money because filing fees had already been turned over to the city's general fund. Besides, she said, the hearing on Mr. Brown's residency wasn't cheap. Lawyer fees, board member pay, overtime pay for marshals and a court reporter cost the city about $5,500.

If Ms. Moss' challenge to Mr. Copenhaver turns out to be frivolous as the mayor says it will, he'll push to have her pay the costs.

RUSH JOB? The board will meet Monday to consider Ms. Moss' challenge and a request from businessman Charlie Hannah to delay the printing of the November ballots. Mr. Hannah said it would be too confusing for voters to have Mr. Few's name on the ballot if the elections board rules he's ineligible.

By law, the ballots have to be ready for mailing to absentee voters 45 days before the election, which would give the printers a narrow window to work with after the board meets.

By The Way: Commissioners will vote Tuesday on appointing Mr. Brown to the ARC Small Business Advisory Council representing Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams' District 2.

HARD WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT: Former Mayor Bob Young called Friday and left a message saying he couldn't believe some of the wild things he's been reading about Augusta politics.

"I think people in Augusta have just flat gone crazy," he said.

I called him back to say he was on target.

He was on his way to Augusta from Atlanta where he has his big federal job. He asked what I'd heard from former interim Mayor Willie Mays, and I said absolutely nothing, that it was like he had just disappeared like some of his clients.

"That's what the mayor's office will do to you," he said.

TWO DOWN AND HOW MANY MORE TO GO? The Augusta Commission's budget work sessions have become nothing short of laughable. This past week, Richmond County Correctional Institute Warden Robert Leverette and public services Director Michael Green presented their plans to cut next year's departmental budgets. But before they got started, commissioners spent about 25 minutes talking about what project they could develop in Augusta to bring people here to spend money. Finally, Commissioner Jimmy Smith blurted out, "Can we get on with the budget meeting?"

They did, and when Mr. Greene laid out his plan to cut $1 million from his department by laying off 15 full-time employees, including two assistant directors, and six part-timers and told them the consequences of that, the meeting sort of fell apart.

There's got to be another way," Mr. Smith said.

The week before, it was transit, with similar results.

THE FOX AND THE HOUNDS: One of the upshots of the commission's recreation subcommittee investigation of the department under Tom Beck's direction might be Municipal Golf Course pro Guy Reid being put on administrative leave until he regains his PGA golf professional status Class A certification.

The loss of that certification came up during last week's subcommittee hearing with Mr. Beck, and now Mr. Reid has 45 days to get it back or he'll be in the unemployment line, Mr. Beck said.

Mr. Beck said Mr. Reid hasn't been able to have time off to attend training courses to earn required credits because of "issues at the golf course."

"That's one of the things he was not able to do because of me," Mr. Beck said.

The subcommittee has been tracking complaints about Mr. Beck's management of the recreation department for weeks now, but it hasn't snared him yet.

TAKE THIS JOB: At a mayoral forum at Eastview Community Center last week, the candidates were asked whether they had to consider their opponents for employment in their government, what would they have them do and why.

Steven Kendrick said that because Mr. Copenhaver had been in real estate, he'd have him direct the city's housing department. And because Gil Gilyard had worked in human resources, he'd put him in charge of that department.

"Mr. Few so eloquently tells us all the time he's been a great fire chief for our city, so he will do best there," Mr. Kendrick said. "I will be the mayor."

Mr. Few said he'd give Mr. Kendrick the "easy job of running the fire department" because he'd put the department ship-shape when he was chief six years ago.

"I put a five-year plan in place, and it needs upgrading at this point because they're a little bit lost, so I'm going to put Steven over the fire department." (That ought to burn some folks up over at the firehouse.)

Mr. Few said that because Mr. Gilyard is in real estate, he'd put him in charge of property assessments.

He said he'd put Mr. Copenhaver over the water department because of his background in conservation matters.

Mr. Gilyard said frankly he wouldn't consider any of them for a position but would let them serve in advisory roles because he didn't hear any one of them say they had the kind of experience needed to head any department.

When Mr. Kendrick heard that, he fired Mr. Gilyard from the Human Resources job.

Mr. Copenhaver said that when he's re-elected he'd love to have Mr. Kendrick interview for the finance director's job, though it probably doesn't pay as much as he's making at Augusta Blueprint.

When Mr. Copenhaver didn't say anything else, moderator Brad Means said, "Nothing for Mr. Few or Mr. Gilyard?

The mayor said he'd love for them to serve on the commission with him.

The Boy King really lives in a glass house and never throws stones.

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


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