Why reward incompetence?

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We hear a lot about "reform" these days, especially when it comes to health care. Then there's tax reform, welfare reform, tort reform, campaign finance reform and more. We could also use entitlement reform, as Social Security and Medicare are headed for the rocks.

But the Chiquita Johnson case makes clear that we also desperately need employment reform.

How is it that an employee being forced to resign for, among other things, abusing her purchasing privileges can seemingly have her employer over a barrel?

Why else would the city of Augusta agree to pay the erstwhile and utterly failed city attorney nine months' severance -- three more months than her contract calls for -- as well as make good on her lease of an apartment and, most outrageously, to write a letter of reference for her?

If an employee is essentially forced out, why should employers be forced to lie about that? Doesn't that just kick the can down the road -- and burden a future employer?

That's basically what happened to Augusta in Johnson's hiring in 2007. She had been fired nine months before by a state agency. Augusta officials say that agency told them she left voluntarily. In fact, records suggest she was fired for misuse of her purchasing card.

Augusta officials may want to claim they were had -- but her resignation this week includes a stipulation that Augusta will claim in the future that she voluntarily resigned. And they'll even throw in a "neutral" letter of reference, whatever that is ("Of all our employees in the past 50 years, she was without a doubt one of them"?).

City officials insist people who object to this arrangement -- which is costing taxpayers more than $93,000 -- just don't know how things work.

Well, we do know. And they don't work.

The city needs a better contract next time, one that protects the interests of taxpayers for once.

In the broader picture, employers ought to be able to be honest about why a person is fired. If the person is fired for good reason, the employer shouldn't be punished for it.

The city should never again agree in a contract to give anyone six months' severance if they're fired. Meanwhile, the definition of "fired for cause" ought to explicitly include excessive and unwarranted purchases -- and, in the case of a city attorney, the proffering of legal advice that is so patently and absurdly illegal and/or unconstitutional that a fifth-grader would know it. Example: an attempt to bar reporters -- but no one else -- from chatting with commissioners in the commission chambers or hallway, as Johnson attempted to do.

And finally, employers should be free to fire ineffective, incompetent and irresponsible employees without abject fear of being sued.

Don't our current laws and regulations protect, and even reward, incompetence?

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AnotherPerspective
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AnotherPerspective 01/07/10 - 03:24 am
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Whoever negotiated such an

Whoever negotiated such an assanine contract should also resign. Think of the possibilities her contract created. She could quite literally walk in and steal the marble from the marble palace, and what would happen? She would be fired and on the way out the door would be given a 6-month bonus. I don't know any company that gives a Christmas bonus any more to even its most deserving employees.

concernednative
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concernednative 01/07/10 - 03:55 am
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I am not worried about the

I am not worried about the letter any company not smart enough to google her name and see her past deserves what they get. But the nine months pay is ridiculous someone in the HR dept should have been escorted out with her. Unless it was all the person that has retired fault.

Brad Owens
4419
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Brad Owens 01/07/10 - 04:54 am
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Thank you Reverend Hatney for

Thank you Reverend Hatney for this disaster. This is what we get for allowing a man who puts race ahead of his fiduciary duties as a commissioner to select the person we hire. He is a victim of his times and I don't hold it against him really. He learned a long time ago that the way to 'progress' is to use the system to force the social changes he thinks it needs. This problem of always putting race ahead of everything else will die with the generation that was forced to sit on the back of the bus (Hatney) and the generation that used racial politics to remain the 'master' of the other. My son is growing up in an America where race is less a factor than economic standing. I hope education and experience will be the measuring stick used for hiring when he graduates from the University of Michigan, too bad that isn't the lesson the Hatney's of this world learned from their own struggle against racial injustice huh?

Ole School
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Ole School 01/07/10 - 05:21 am
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I also think and or feel that

I also think and or feel that if you have a reason to fire someone then you should ! it should leave a mark in their record ! LEGALLY !

Riverman1
83578
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Riverman1 01/07/10 - 05:47 am
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We need to examine every

We need to examine every aspect of this Banana Gate to ensure it never happens again. About references, someone told me a long time ago that he gave everyone good references on paper for legal reasons, but if you called him he would let you know off the record how the person actually performed. Sad state of affairs as the editorial says, but a call to Ms. Johnson's former employer with the state would have uncovered her previous scandal.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 01/07/10 - 06:18 am
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As long as the threat of a

As long as the threat of a "racial" law suit hangs in the balance, the employer doing the firing is at risk, as is the next employer of the employee in question. The false "reference" letter is on the same level as the initial affirmative action hiring. This is a fine example of government interference in government. This diversity approach is turning on it's supporters. Of course, the taxpayer will be the one that is punished. If it weren't for the fiscal penalties, the system would be a great joke. "An employee should be hired because of the content of their competency, not the color of their skin." (to paraphrase)

thewiz0oz
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thewiz0oz 01/07/10 - 06:28 am
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What we have here is a system

What we have here is a system that that has been abused for many years resulting in ongoing victimization of employers. Letters of reference in many cases are worthless as the fear of harassing litigation rules the day. This is a particular problem for the City of Augusta resulting from one of the flaws in our Consolidation Charter. Our hired professional manager, the City Administrator, has ho hire, fire and/or promotion power over city employees as do other senior administrators. He/she should have this power subject to the oversight of the Commission. In Augusta senior managers are subject to the whims of each of the 10 Commissioners. If two or more individuals have identical authority over the same activity than no one is accountable. Hopefully in 2010 our Commissioners, Legislators & voters will address and repair the flaws in our Charter.

Riverman1
83578
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Riverman1 01/07/10 - 07:10 am
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Mr. Osbon, what the

Mr. Osbon, what the legislators should do is come up with a way to protect the West and South Augusta folks from the interests of the downtown people. You can't expect the entire county to keep funding $100 MILLION projects for the downtown area. How about an exhibit hall for the hotel complex off Stevens Creek Rd? No, instead we waste money on a downtown tier 3 TEE in a time when centers all over the country are losing money because they can't draw shows. Columbia opened one two years ago and that's going to be in direct competition with ours. Our $100 MILLION gamble was a Boardman/Deke, Osbon, Morris deal implemented through the Commission, not the City Administrator. Hopefully, a good administrator would have told you why it is such a bad idea.

thewiz0oz
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thewiz0oz 01/07/10 - 07:28 am
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Mr. Riverman, while I humbly

Mr. Riverman, while I humbly respect your opinion and the data you refer to I don't see the interests of South, West & North Augusta in conflict with those of Downtown Augusta. Few communities are successful without a healthy center core and Augusta has a very unique & special riverfront destination that can not be replicated elsewhere. If not for the beauty of the Downtown river area fronted also by North Augusta the long history of the many unique historical assets found in Downtown are irreplaceable. I suspect you and many others will be surprised at the success of our expanded Trade & Exhibit efforts. Certainly, The Hyatt Hotel Group must believe in Augusta's Downtown to have made a $25 million commitment. A colleague of mine in Athens was astonished at the Hyatt commitment. I think you will also find very little collaboration between the individuals you refer to on this matter.

JohnQPublic
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JohnQPublic 01/07/10 - 07:52 am
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I'd like to know about the

I'd like to know about the "package", if any, she received from her former employer. Is this how she makes her "living", by getting cushy termination packages? Dumb as a fox.

Riverman1
83578
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Riverman1 01/07/10 - 07:52 am
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I suspect Clarke County is

I suspect Clarke County is the only other county in Georgia that funds the downtown area with tax money from the entire county to the degree that we do.

nofrills
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nofrills 01/07/10 - 08:02 am
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Ms. Johnson is an educated

Ms. Johnson is an educated thief. Nothing more nothing less.

getalife
4
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getalife 01/07/10 - 08:55 am
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Sad that with the letter of

Sad that with the letter of reference and the assurity that no one will give out any bad information on this woman, she will go to the next job and do the same thing. It is high time we call a crook a crook and quit this "politically correct" BS.

mojo
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mojo 01/07/10 - 09:08 am
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How is she different from

How is she different from most of the people in similar positions employed by Richmond County?

deekster
24
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deekster 01/07/10 - 09:13 am
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She has "private information"

She has "private information" on those involved. They are willfully being blackmailed at the taxpayer's expense. Recklessly spending other people's money is what they do best. After the constant hot air. Remember Robert Dixon's exit.

deekster
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deekster 01/07/10 - 09:13 am
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Why reward incompetence?

Why reward incompetence? Simple. It levels the playing field.

shootamonkey
12
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shootamonkey 01/07/10 - 09:18 am
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Fred Russell has got to
Unpublished

Fred Russell has got to go!!!!!!

Fiat_Lux
15360
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Fiat_Lux 01/07/10 - 09:33 am
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Julian: Until the "core" is

Julian: Until the "core" is generally free of human detritus and predators, don't expect the South, West and North of Augusta to be very enthusiastic about supporting it, or even to be able to catch the Hyatt's and your vision regarding it. My antecedents came to Augusta in the late 1700s and I know where their homes were on Greene Street. Some of their business holdings still stand down near the levee. I would love to be able to enjoy walking around that area and through Magnolia Cemetery, and reviewing all the history that is marked and honored there. Use your influence to get law and order restored and to have people able to safely enjoy "the core", and the support will flood in from Augustans. I know people think the TEE is some great conspiracy among the Augusta upper crust when it just isn't, but a collaboration of that group could do a lot to pressure our commission and law enforcement to return our downtown to the people instead of the beggars and predators. There's no way Savannah doesn't have to deal with this, but even though the occasional tragedy still happens, Savannahians still feel generally safe to go downtown at night. Augustans could too, if...

Fiat_Lux
15360
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Fiat_Lux 01/07/10 - 09:40 am
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Nothing like this will ever

Nothing like this will ever happen for Augusta as long as the Chiquitas and the Hatneys are able to undermine things with their malfeasance, incompetence and their biased agendae. I just wonder how people like Hatney don't see how much they hurt the very people they're trying to help. What a mess we have had for so very long. Stupid people with tunnel vision blocking everything good for our community and anybody who challenges them get slandered. People in this community are just so sick of it. You raise of taxes and then flush it down the toilet on something like this idiot lawyer. You people ought to be as disgusted with yourselves as we are. You're not because you're greedy and you love feeling like you have power and respect. All illusions.

themaninthemirror
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themaninthemirror 01/07/10 - 09:48 am
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"This is a fine example of

"This is a fine example of government interference in government. "---Basically that's what affirmative action is: government interference in employment matters. Race has nothing to do with this matter, since the last person who was in this position was forced out and that person was white. Incompetence knows no color barriers and is not prejudiced. If this was the only reason for letting her go, it would be a little easier to stomach these "golden parachute" termination clauses in her contract. But she was let go also for violating purchasing policies with the government issued credit card. I think she is getting way to lenient a deal to get on Greyhound. My advice to Fred Russell: Take a hint from your predcecessor,(George Kolb), look for a job while you still have one. You don't want to end up like a previous fire chief.

augustalawyer
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augustalawyer 01/07/10 - 10:19 am
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You wonder why was she given

You wonder why was she given such termination package? Since most government business happens behind closed doors I wonder what she had on those in the marble palace and what she knew about the commissioners. When you know "where the bodies are buried" you generally get to write your own ticket.

hgut
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hgut 01/07/10 - 10:24 am
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An employee must PROVE to the

An employee must PROVE to the EEOC that she/he was wronged by her/his employer before the EEOC takes action. Ms. Johnson claims to be a lawyer, yet she doesn't seem to know it is wrong to spend someone elses money on yourself. This is called theft. Perhaps Ms. Johnson didn't attend all of her ethics classes, or perhaps she doesn't understand the Bible! Thieves are in all races, religions, and nationalities. Perhaps she is only confused for having been rewarded by her previous employer for the same, or similar behavior. It is obvious the Commissioners don't understand hiring and firing principles; that is what HR is for, and perhaps our HR people don't either. Also, to hire someone who insists on a termination/resignation clause stipulating six months severance pay should be put on the bottom of the applications list, or better to just tear the application up. I don't mind paying taxes, but not to support government employee theft. Wake up Commissioners; she just bluffed you when you had the better hand!

Brad Owens
4419
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Brad Owens 01/07/10 - 10:31 am
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Mr. Osbon, you know I respect

Mr. Osbon, you know I respect you and have every since I got to know your talented sons at Aquinas amny year ago. You have invested a lot of your personal monies into our downtown and your buildings are jewels. But I must disagree on on TEE with you Sir. The price tag delivered in tax dollars will take a century to recover from these investments if we ever do. Would you disagree that downtown has many needs that are overtly neglected while things like TEE receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in studies, prep, and interets? Why should we spend $100,000,000.00 on TEE while the needs are ignored because they are less 'sexy'? Puls, Hyatt's investment is just that, an investment. Will Hyatt pay the property taxes on the full value of $25,000,000.00? I just don't think it is wise to invest so much money on a MAYBE. But then again, I am not a millionaire developer who can broker deals like this on the public dime where I alone profit if it works and the tax payer pays the band if it doesn't. Corporate welfare is just as much a drain on the economy as personal welfare, but at least the personal welfare gets spent in Aususta and only costs the tax payer ONCE.

RoadKing09
16
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RoadKing09 01/07/10 - 10:36 am
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Something in the milk aint

Something in the milk aint clean.

butler123
1
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butler123 01/07/10 - 10:52 am
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There has to be something

There has to be something else stinky going on here. She lied on her employment application to begin with. This alone is enough of a reason to get fired. Then she committed theft. Enough reason to send her to jail as well. She has got to have something bad on someone. Must be really bad or they would have her brought up on charges for black mail. Instead they pay her off, Hmmm...?

Roeschen
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Roeschen 01/07/10 - 11:08 am
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obama is rewarded every day

obama is rewarded every day for his incompetence, so why should this backward government be any different than our national government? Rewarding incompetence seems to be the American way any more. I think it starts in grade school. We reward incompetence there by promoting children who should be held back - don't want to hurt their egos. This trend continues through middle, high school, college and into the work force, especially with those hired under the auspices of Affirmative Action. Stop this and much of the incompetence will also be stopped.

Ayetidiosi
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Ayetidiosi 01/07/10 - 11:13 am
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butler, it's called "Legal

butler, it's called "Legal Blackmail" now. Tiger paid his "transgressions" to keep quiet, and that's okay. The Senate paid Nelson of NE for his vote, and that's okay. The Commish gave Ms Johnson $94k to be quiet and that's okay too. Welcome to Amerika. The guy charged with attempted extortion of David Letterman has petitioned for dismissal of all charges since he was doing "nothing more that Tiger Woods or Congress did". The Judge has not yet ruled....

Ayetidiosi
2
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Ayetidiosi 01/07/10 - 11:17 am
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Roeschen: it continues onto

Roeschen: it continues onto the children's playgrounds, where little Johnny or Susie ALWAYS make the team, ALWAYS play in every game, and NEVER lose. It is failure which builds wisdom, character, and perspective required to become a winner. Children have become so "fragile" in their parent(s) minds... they stunt the growth. Kids don't learn to read and write well today.

Roeschen
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Roeschen 01/07/10 - 11:31 am
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Ayetidiosi - Agreed. But

Ayetidiosi - Agreed. But what is the answer? When does it stop? I have seen parents get into fist fights because their children lost a game of t-ball - and they were the mothers. Many parents are living vicariously through their children. Unfortunately, sportsmanship is never taught and certainly not learned and kids never learn from their mistakes. They do, however, learn to lie about what they have done, because that is what their parents want to hear - unfortunately, this is something that is carried into their adult life.

baronvonreich
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baronvonreich 01/07/10 - 11:48 am
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J.R. Hatney needs to explain

J.R. Hatney needs to explain how he could lead a group that could properly interview and hire Chiquita or else he needs to be fired for incompetence or jailed for corruption.

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