Thursday, February 21, 2008

Albany Beat

A costly question
Inadvertently, I seem to have cost Dougherty County taxpayers lots of money -- $266, to be exact. On Feb. 16, we asked why the Board of Education discussed the hiring of a consultant in executive session. Although the elected school board members who were the targets of our question, the school system’s attorney, Tommy Coleman, went to work – on our dime. He billed his bosses (aka us taxpayers) for 2.8 hours of work at $95 an hour for working on what he described in his billing report as “an open records matter” doing such tasks as making three calls to the Journal. As it turns out, Coleman says that although transportation consultant Rick Wheeler’s title is “consultant”, he actually is a part-time employee; as such, the discussion about Wheeler’s hiring in an executive session was proper, the attorney said. We’re sorry, taxpayers. If only I would’ve known … Oh, heck, I still would have asked the question. But should you have to pay for it?

Is ATI’s former chief a blogger?
If so, he’s pretty doggone mad. Someone identifying himself as Ken Weaver – the same name as Albany Tomorrow Inc.’s recently ousted CEO -- went off on ATI board member Emily Jean McAfee and Albany Area Chamber of Commerce CEO on the community Web blog “Wake up, Albany , you are being run by imbeciles,” the blogger said. Weaver has not returned out telephone call seeking an interview.

A glowing recommendation
An Albany lobbyist who has been busted for ethics violations will make $24,000 consulting for the City of Bainbridge for four months. William G. “Jerry” Usry was recommended by state Sen. John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee) for the gig as a state lobbyist providing consulting on municipal affairs. It’s no wonder that Bulloch gave Usry a good word; Usry donates mightily to Bulloch’s campaign fund and has reported that he has bought Bulloch meals, as well. In July 2007, Usry was fined $15,000 for violating the state’s Ethics in Government Act by being compensated for lobbying without being registered with the State Ethics Commission and, thus, without filing expenditure reports. Usry, who has since registered as a lobbyist, also is heavy contributor to the campaign fund of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany.

Hole in one for Albany
Albany will host the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s men’s golf championships for three years beginning this year. “We truly believe the City of Albany and the Recreation and Parks Department have all the necessary tools to make it an annual signature event,” conference commissioner William L. Lide said in a recent letter notifying the city that its bid had been accepted. Albany State University is an SIAC member.