Committee meetings do nothing to answer ethics questions while raising new ones
An agenda item intended to discuss rebidding large contracts and the possible use of a contract specialist ended up antagonizing commissioners already on edge about allegations that three of their own have engaged in improper working relationships with the city.
Commissioner Bill Lockett’s Administrative Services Committee was prepared to act on Commissioner Grady Smith’s motion to update code provisions relating to employees and public officials participating as subcontractors on city projects, an item that was referred from the February 11 Administrative Services Committee meeting, but Lockett led a vote to delete that from the agenda, adding in its place a discussion about the allegations that three city commissioners have done business with the city.
After the February 11 committee meeting, which resulted in a closed door legal session following Procurement Director Geri Sams’ reluctance to publically answer questions about whether there was any evidence that commissioners were working for the city, it was learned that Commissioners Grady Smith, Joe Jackson and Wayne Guilfoyle had all done work for the city.
Smith owns a plumbing company with his brother, Jackson is a locksmith and Guilfoyle owns a flooring company. All have since admitted their businesses have performed work for the city since taking office.
The discussion was set to occur at the end of the long series of committee meetings, though instead of launching into the expected discussion, Lockett chose to put the issue into Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s lap by moving it to the full commission, citing Copenhaver’s censure of Commissioner Calvin Holland in 2007 as precedence for the mayor to become involved.
The move surprised many commissioners, who had remained for the expected discussion after their own committee meetings had finished.
Both Lockett and Commissioner Marion Williams expressed displeasure with the law department for not providing what they considered the important, relevant information that was requested about the topic.
Lockett called the information he received “deplorable” and Williams demanded facts and figures so that he didn’t have to make assumptions from media accounts.
The motion to move it forward to the full commission failed after a substitute motion made by Commissioner Donnie Smith to hold a special public meeting failed because he was not a voting member of the committee.
No one else picked up his motion, though Williams said he would make sure the issue would be placed on an upcoming agenda.
Further adding to the suspicions of wrongdoing engulfing city government was the discovery that the city is operating with contracts that have not gone through the procurement process.
Again, this information came from Sams, who was again reluctant to speak fully about the issue. After failing to give an example of a type of contract that would not go through the procurement department, a frustrated Donnie Smith pressed unsuccessfully for an answer.
“That’s a lot of words that got us nowhere,’ he said of her rambling response.
“I know,” she replied.
Donnie Smith said he would follow up at another time, but Williams, who reminded her of the old adage that there are no courthouse secrets, refused to let it go.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “This is too much for me to wait on — I need to know why, I need to know how much money and I need to know when.”
Lockett, however, was unwilling to allow the questioning, and against Williams’ objections, asked Sams if she was prepared to answer the question, to which Williams protested.
“Commissioner Williams, I am chair of this committee and I asked the question and I wish you would respect that.”
“You are the chair,” Williams admitted, “but I had the floor.”
“And I’m taking it back,” Lockett snapped.
The heated exchange left only questions in its wake at a time when there is considerable speculation about the ethics surrounding the administration of government contracts. You Might Also Like: