Our view: Robert Smith's circus




Like a child who is convinced that he has committed the perfect crime in sampling the forbidden cake, unaware that the evidence of his offense is smeared across his face, the Columbus City Council has again pulled off a stunt that has fooled absolutely no one. 


For the second straight meeting, the city's governing body has tried to pull a fast one. In June, it was a last-minute addition to the agenda to add a pay raise proposal. Ward 2 councilman Whisperin' Joe Mickens achieved this by tickling the ear of the mayor with a few sweet nothings. Presto! A pay raise for the council was added to the agenda and the council voted themselves a $4,000 raise.  


Tuesday, the council voted to rescind that 23-percent raise, either bowing the public pressure or, far less likely, a pang of conscience. The exception was, of course, the Reverend Mickens who bows to neither public pressure nor conscience and voted against rescinding the raise.  


Ward 5 councilman Kabir Karriem, who had seconded the pay raise motion and voted for it in June, had a much difference view Tuesday. 


"I can't see legitimately taking a pay raise as I see my brothers and sisters walk up and down the street needing employment and jobs." 


It must have been a tough month in Ward 5. In June, apparently, conditions were much better and a $4,000 bump in pay seemed "legitimate." 


In the end, of course, the council corrected the error and no harm was done -- if you don't count the damage inflicted on the council's credibility, that is. 


No sooner had the council corrected one glaring error than it committed another. 


First, the council rejected a proposal to retain the services of Neel-Schaffer as the city engineer, voting instead for a substitute motion to open that job up for applicants. 


Then, the council voted to create a new position -- project manager -- and chose construction management firm J5 Broaddus for the job. A substitute motion to request that the new position be open to applications was rejected.  


On one hand, the council said the new position should not be open to applicants. In the next breath, it said the city engineer position should be open to applicants. How's that for consistency? 


You might think that the council would want to weigh the wisdom of adding a new position to the city government, given the city's financial situation. A public hearing on the matter seems justified. What exactly does the "project manager" do? What does the position pay? How can that additional pay be justified? 


Smith explained to the council that the project manager's job would be to oversee "what the engineer is doing" and "look out for the best interests of the city." 


There was no discussion of how to pay for the new position. 


At the next meeting, don't be surprised if the council decides, in another fit of fiscal restraint, that the best way to cover the expense of the job is to make some changes in the city engineer position. 


This would achieve two things: First, it would mean the departure of Kevin Stafford of Neel-Schaffer, who attracted the ire of Whisperin' Joe during the municipal election campaign when he provided Mickens' opponent, Susan Mackay, with some of the city's data on Ward 2 without charge. It should be noted that any citizen can make such requests. 


Second, it would provide a means of putting one of the mayor's key supporters on the city payroll. J5 Broaddus, the only choice for the project manager's position, is operated by Jabari and Jewel Edwards, according to the Secretary of State's office. Jabari Edwards has served a campaign manager for Smith. 


When approached on the matter Wednesday, Smith defended the council's actions by pointing out the addition of project manager is a means of providing checks-and-balances. It is interesting, though, that the other appointments don't have anyone on the city payroll looking over their shoulders. Where are those checks-and-balances for city prosecutor or city judges? By the way, where is the "checks-and-balances" for the mayor's office? It sure as heck isn't the city council.  


As for why the new position wasn't open to applications, the mayor said that most appointments aren't open to competition.  


But if any appointment warrants opening the field to applicants, it is the project manager position, given the mayor's obvious relationship with the firm that was chosen. 


This an obvious attempt by the mayor to pay off a personal debt of gratitude on the city's dime. 


Did Smith think no one would notice? Does the mayor really think we are that gullible? Or is he simply that arrogant? 


We can hardly wait for the next city council meeting to see what abomination will be inflicted on the city next. Come early. We sense some real crowds may start turning out for this circus. 


All that is missing is the calliope music.



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