Ethics violations result in three censures and grandstanding
In a highly charged commission meeting that lasted well into the night, commissioners decided to censure three of their own for violating the city’s ethics code by engaging in work for the city while serving as on the commission.
After considerable deliberation revolving around the scope of their authority and the way they were going to handle the situation, Commissioners Wayne Guilfoyle, Joe Jackson and Grady Smith were each given a chance to speak to the commission, and each apologized for the breach of ethics before listening to their fellow commissioners discuss their fate.
Guilfoyle, who owns a flooring company, agreed not to do work for the city and also voluntarily agreed to Commissioner Alvin Mason’s additional request that he refrain from doing business with the city for two years after leaving the commission.
Jackson, a locksmith, also said he regretted doing work for the city, though he made it clear he did not regret helping the Sheriff’s Office. He, too, voluntarily agreed not to do work for the city for two years after stepping down, with the caveat that he would continue helping the Sheriff’s Office for free.
Smith’s situation, however, wasn’t as clear cut. The fact that his company, Smith Brothers Mechanical, was in the middle of an ongoing contract made such absolute remedies difficult.
It was further complicated by the fact that it was his request for general counsel Andrew MacKenzie to draft an ordinance allowing commissioners and employees to engage in certain work relationships with the county that brought the situation to the public eye in the first place.
If he didn’t think what he was doing was wrong, the suspicion goes, why did he attempt to change the rules?
In the end, Commissioner Marion Williams, who had earlier been the most vocal in his criticism of their actions, several times expressing his frustration with MacKenzie and then with fellow commissioners for not taking the offenses seriously, voted to censure Smith in the same way as they had the others, saying that they had no authority to do anything more.
Though it seemed to be clear that commissioners had done all that they were authorized to do — the question was between a censure and a reprimand — it was unclear whether any further criminal actions could be taken.
What was also clear was the fact that a new commission is never out of the shadow of old commissions. Several references to previous actions by previous commissions bubbled to the surface, and although they threatened to sidetrack the deliberations, they never quite managed to derail them.
Smith in particular seemed unwilling to yield to criticism. Though he did admit that he made a mistake, he continued to bring up the fact that he didn’t know his Fort Gordon job was considered working for the city.
How these internal disagreements will impact the ability of the commission to function in the future is unclear. Though debate mostly stayed clear of personal attacks, Mason, Williams and Lockett made it clear that they were unhappy to find commissioners facing such fundamental violations.
If you didn’t know going into being a commissioner that working for the city was a violation, Mason claimed, the training they received as commissioners should have made it abundantly clear.
The meeting, which ended well after 7:30 p.m., was otherwise mostly uneventful, though several looming issues remain unanswered, including the revelation at last week’s committee meetings that the city has entered into contracts without going through the procurement process. You Might Also Like: