Augusta Commissioner Mary Davis seconded the motion to fire Fred Russell saying after the legal session it was time to act. “At that time, it was an agreement with the Commisison that after a lot of hard thought, it was time to move forward with new leadership,” said Davis.
Wayne Guilfoyle was one of three Commissioners absent from the meeting, and he called the firing move sudden.“We was actually doing an exit plan, and working on an exit plan where it was respectful, respectful for Mister Russell,” said Guilfoyle.
But, for Russell...no exit plan. WJBF News Channel 6 was the first to inform him he was fired.
“The one thing I was embarrassed about it...the method of delivery. The Administrator had to find out that from the press, not directly from the Commission,” said Commissioner Donnie Smith. "So, the handling of it was an embarrassment?" we asked. "Yes, to me, a huge embarrassment,” said Smith.
“It was no disrespect to anybody. It was not, in my opinion, done...we could have terminated him as of yesterday and that didn't happen,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Corey Johnson.
Commissioners had been discussing an exit strategy with Russell that did not include getting fired. City leaders were even making a point last week to say Russellwasn't going to be forced out the door.
“He's not being forced out, I think this is more or less a mutual agreement,” said Commissioner Bill Lockett last week.
Last week, Russell also said he wouldn't be forced out. “I think everybody knows me well enough now, that listens to your TV Station...know that I don't get forced to do too much,” said Russell last week.
And, for some Commissioners, it was that statement that forced a firing instead of an exit plan...
“Comments that he made, that he was going to leave on his own terms when he gets ready, that puts a bitter taste in your month, especially when you're his boss,” said Lockett.
“It wasn't that, that wasn't the decider, if you will, on us making that decision yesterday. We wanted to go in a different direction,” said Johnson.
Davis also stated Russell’s statements last week did not weigh on her decision.
Russell is gone the end of this month, and Commissioners will decide at their meeting nextTuesday who will serve as interim City Administrator.
Under a city ordinance, the Mayor recommends three options for Commissioners to consider.Those options are expected to come for a national search using a head hunting firm.
To view what Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver had to say about Russell's firing, click here. To view our story from Monday on Russell's firing click here. To view our story from last week about Russell and the Commission talking about his retirement, and changes that needed to be made in Augusta government, click here.