December 19, 2009 8:47:00 PM
Pointing to the recent appointment of Brandy Gardner, who served as Columbus Mayor Robert Smith''s campaign manager, to the Columbus Utilities Commission, Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem Friday issued a call for "transparency in government."
Gardner, whose mother also worked on Smith''s campaign and serves on the Columbus Housing Authority board of directors, was appointed Tuesday, after Smith broke a tie vote by the councilmen, who previously tried to nominate two other applicants to the utilities board position.
Gardner will serve until June 30; she will fill a vacancy created with the death of previous board member Raymond Lott.
Marc Amos, a Columbus attorney, Hilbert Williams, a managing broker with Crye Leike Properties, Elizabeth Terry, the wife of former District 4 Lowndes County Supervisor Jim Terry, Currie B. Fisher and Alexander Blunt, who owns various area rental properties, also applied for a position on the board, whose regularly appointed members serve five-year terms.
Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin made a motion to appoint Amos, but the motion died for lack of a second.
Karriem subsequently made a motion to appoint Blunt.
Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens, Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box and Karriem voted in favor of the motion and Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor, Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart and Gavin voted against the motion.
Smith broke the tie, with a vote against the motion to appoint Blunt.
Then, Taylor moved to appoint Gardner, with Taylor, Stewart and Gavin voting in favor and Mickens, Box and Karriem voting in opposition.
Smith broke the tie, with a vote in favor of appointing Gardner.
"It''s nothing personal against Brandy Gardner," Karriem said Friday. "I think if we''re going to lead the city in the direction it needs to go in, we can''t have question marks about board appointments or hiring in the city. Government needs to be transparent and everybody should have a fair shake. We can''t continue to put one segment in town or one family on these boards. I think the people elected us to bring change and that''s what I want to be a part of. I don''t want it to be business as usual.
"I don''t think this board appointment was right," he continued. "We had a lot of good applicants, a lot of good business folks. We can''t continue to try to put our friends on these boards. It just doesn''t look right. Government has to be transparent and we have to show these citizens we''re trying to do the right thing and make Columbus a progressive place."
Smith said he voted for Gardner based on her qualifications.
"Whether you know them or not, if they''re qualified, that''s what counts," he said. "Brandy Gardner is just as qualified as anyone else who applied. That''s the key. There''s no conflict, as far as her mother being on the housing authority board. The only requirement is you must be a registered voter. There''s no ethical violation."
Karriem suggested "rotating" board appointments among the councilmen.
"Instead of doing it by trying to pay back political appointments, (we should make appointments) by ward," he said. "One would have to question recent board appointments."
melody commented at 12/21/2009 10:56:00 AM:
Way to go Karriem-sounds like too much good ol boy stuff going on in the Mayors camp.
j commented at 12/21/2009 4:37:00 PM:
Way to go karriem stand up 4 whats right next you will be mayor its time 4 change
dale commented at 12/21/2009 8:55:00 PM:
I agree with Karriem conserning the appointment ofGardner. Relatives and friends should not be appointed to serve in any capacity in the City or County government. I call this a conflict of interest. The Mayor has no business making this appointment. Who would,nt like a job for five years and free insurance.
1. Ex-office manager arrested for embezzlement COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY