July 22, 2014 found Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson in the studio of Augusta radio station WGAC for an hour on the Austin Rhodes Show. The general topic of discussion that day was the upcoming Special Purpose Local Option Sales tax or SPLOST. An Arrowflinger called in to discuss the SPLOST projects and to opine that discussion was needed as to how secure the bank accounts into which SPLOST funds would be deposited were. (More on that to come.)
Toward the end of the show, talk shifted to praising long-time Columbia County Emergency Management Director, Pam Tucker for her astute planning and the county’s superb response to the Winter 2014 Ice Storm. Listen and admire the warmth, for these days the only warmth is emitting from anger, as Administrator Johnson and now Former Director Tucker are in the midst of a political war being fought by Columbia County District 1 Commissioner Doug Duncan against Tucker. Both are running for the Chair of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, along with Developer Mark Herbert.
The way Columbia County has gravitated toward rank cronyism, perhaps we should call it the Columbia County Board of Collusioners.
May 22 is Election Day. May Columbia County elect the best candidate, or, more providently, the least damaging one. An emergency management professional has the training to do that.
Maybe Columbia County should hear how highly her current antagonists once regarded Pam Tucker.
(Editor’s Note: The above clip is included under Fair Use for the purposes of journalism and public education.)
Comments of Al M. Gray to the Augusta Commission
Equal Protection, Equal Accountability
March 1, 2016
Mayor Davis, lady and gentlemen of the commission, thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
The baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it,” but after its last two meetings perhaps this body should stop, back up and try another fork before the wheels come off of Augusta’s government like one of those KME firetrucks. Citizens, officials, and observers far and wide have been taken aback by votes to remedy a pay-increase scandal which represents a horrendous breach of Constitutional equal protection for the one employee, and the simultaneous dismissal of equal accountability for three others, who arguably had more responsibility.
The vote, and particularly the commentary during the last commission meeting, filled me and most observers with dismay, not just because of the ugly tone, but because the transparency so loudly promised during the SPLOST campaign is obviously dead. A citizenry who saw its garbage collection service cut in half now sees, yet again, tomfoolery to shift money between accounts to cover benefits to the downtown. They see the time-consuming machinations this administration has undertaken to do it during a time in which new SPLOST controls were supposedly a priority.
The biggest scandal in Augusta history – the financially ruinous TEE Center/Laney Walker Development deal – wasted more $tens of millions than a convention of con artists could dream up. The principle TEE contract required extensive records to be kept until the year 2020, yet neither side of the ugliness of the last 2 weeks wants to empower Augusta by learning from its mistakes there. One faction wouldn’t want it out during the state Republican Party Convention at the Convention Center out of fear of embarrassing party officials and the city. The other seems to want to maintain the sloppiness to get tens of millions more in loot with assertions of, “it’s our turn, now”, or, “we are getting our share.”
Politicians like to create a façade of controls to hide the looting, but not controls to stop the looting. With the TEE Center, Augusta wound up with the daisy chain of “expert” controllers, costing a combined $1250 per hour, who controlled almost nothing and rubberstamped nearly everything. The powerfully-written construction management contract that Augusta won was turned into mush at their hands. Why?
Another Yogism by Berra– “It is Déjà vu all over again” – fits my 40 year odyssey out of Augusta, back, and now into this chamber. The mid 1970’s found me at the Labor Department in Augusta working to administer the old 13 county CETA employment programs. Fury erupted among the mostly black program management in Augusta that Columbia County had preselected an overwhelmingly white contingent of ineligible folks, but then came the embarrassing find that Augusta’s enrollees were mostly black ineligible folks.
A poor, blind, black woman with a young lad in tow came into the Program Director’s office to see the Reverend F. Francis Cook. “This is my grandson, Jonathan, who sees about me, the best he can, but he needs one of those CETA jobs you all are handing out,” she said. Deputy Director Cook was in tears. There were no jobs left for the eligible and deserving grandson. He got crowded out by black politics. F. Francis Cook made sure we quit running a program for cronies, to make room for his people and for ALL people.
Yes, you can use the system perfected by the last administration to loot the people and discriminatingly spread $millions, but, “They did it, and we are, too!” makes a twisted concept of equal protection, while hurting the wrong people -people in your community.
What happened over the last two weeks destroyed confidence that this commission desires the promised transparency and reform. Choose another fork, one of real reform; this one is a dead end for Augusta.
Out here in the country, folks know better than to tie a goat to a rose trellis, but down the road in Augusta, Mayor Deke Copenhaver is getting ready to tie a whole herd of them to Richmond County’s last golden rosary, the SPLOST fund.
You can be sure that his honor would like to get out the gate in January before the new gardener arrives, especially since there is a big old hungry Judas goat hidden, yet in plain sight at the front of the line.
Yes, right now it is at the very end of the SPLOST ballot for tomorrow and this Judas goat reads like this, “If reimposition of the tax is approved by the voters, such vote shall also constitute approval of the issuance of general obligation debt of Augusta, Georgia in the principal amount of $22,395,000 for the purposes of (1) any one or more of the Augusta Projects, (2) the Recreational Multi-Use Facility included in the Hephzibah Projects, and (3) retiring the Augusta Notes. Yes or no.”
Trouble is, those bonds never got issued and the issuing URA Board is illegal. If the Voters approve the SPLOST, the Mayor and his cronies get to redirect UP FRONT money that was to go toward those bonds. Where will the money go? Probably to their favorite boondoggles, like that Mills Project that Georgia Regents University wants no part of.
The Berckmans Road swindle that went from Last to First was just a trial run for Deke’s grand heist on the way out.
All Augusta will have left is goat’s breath that will be the only thing coming up roses.
The Mayor loves him some prayer breakfasts, and probably this from Matthew, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”
This has been your Many Arrows Moment on Agraynation.com