First on 12: Commissioner slams Augusta code of ethics as 'stupid rule,' looks to 'change the verbiage'

Commissioner Grady Smith (WRDW-TV)
Commissioner Grady Smith (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- An Augusta commissioner is under fire after asking for a special exception to do business with the city. He calls the blatant violation of the code of ethics a "stupid rule."

"I have to live in this community," said Commissioner Grady Smith. "I have to look everybody in the eye."

Smith is looking to boost his personal plumbing business by snagging contracts with the city that pays his salary. It is a direct violation of the code of ethics.

"Change the verbiage to where it can be legal," Smith said.

Smith said he feels the chance to bid on plumbing work on a jail project commissioners recently green-lighted is too good to pass up.

"Anything that comes up about change orders or money or anything to do with the prison, I would abstain," Smith said.

But fellow commissioners agree public officials bidding on a city plumbing deal has a stench to it.

"Yes. I know it's touchy," said Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who is planning to fan the funk on his Finance Committee. "It is the cheapest bid on the list."

Brigham admitted Smith has already entered a bid.

"The city saves about $12,000," said Brigham who unwittingly revealed Smith is requesting an exception to the ethics code after the fact.

"Our ordinances are more extreme than the state ordinance," Brigham said.

"What does it say?" we asked Brigham.

"You got me," Brigham replied. "I'm going to have to pass on that one."

The codes says, "It shall be unethical for any Augusta Richmond County employee or public official to transact any business directly or indirectly in a procurement contract."

"Do you think there should be a different set of rules for you?" we asked Commissioner Smith.

"No," Smith replied. "It should be the same for everybody."

Smith suggests the jail contract is just the beginning.

"I see some jobs that are coming up that I would like to be involved," Smith said. "In the legal way."

Smith said he planned to remove his bid.

"This is a stupid rule," Smith said.

He added he still wants to discuss the agenda item at next week's finance committee. Stay with News 12 for updates.

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