In an op-ed in this newspaper, former Mayor Bob Hydrick said he is 110 percent in support of Mayor Tomlinson's proposals in the 2016 budget. Mr. Hydrick has a right to his opinion, albeit misguided.
He conveniently overlooks Mayor Tomlinson's disregard of the Charter as it reads, not as she wants it to read. One would have expected a former mayor to address this troubling conduct in an Op-Ed.
Despite Mr. Hydrick's 46-year-old memories, the language of the Charter is clear and unmistakable. It states: "Such budget requests shall be incorporated into the overall consolidated government budget for submission by the Mayor to the Council." During my tenure every mayor has followed Section 8-105 of the Charter as written. Regrettably, Mayor Tomlinson's disregard of this one simple, clear sentence has already cost the taxpayers legal fees of well over $1 million, and this figure will likely top $3 million before this is over, which seems to be of little concern to her. The mayor is wasting taxpayer dollars because she can't admit she is wrong and the Charter is right.
The elected officials did not have this problem with their budget requests before Mayor Tomlinson decided to reinvent the Charter. I don't know about Mayor Hydrick, but the two mayors preceding Mayor Tomlinson were not confused about what the Charter said regarding our budget requests. They clearly understood the Charter. No other mayor's actions have caused four citywide elected officials to file lawsuits insisting the mayor follow the Charter. Those mayors followed the law. If Mayor Tomlinson had done so we would not have these costly lawsuits.
The issue at hand, and presently before a judge, is much too important for us to rely on Mr. Hydrick's memory of the charter writers' intentions and the "little history lesson" he offered up with it, especially given the unambiguous language of the Charter itself . Mr. Hydrick mentioned the fact that the Marshal's Office has been in existence since 1831. He did not say, or perhaps didn't know, that every deputy in the Marshal's Office has Georgia Peace Officers Standard and Training certification. Yes, the Marshal's Office has a duty to perform in the court. We also have, however, a sworn duty not to ignore violations of the law, to protect law-abiding citizens whenever necessary, and to assist other law enforcement officers when needed or requested.What person in their right mind would expect a Marshal's deputy to ignore a drunken driver speeding through a school zone endangering the lives of innocent children, or not to respond to an active shooter situation on school grounds when the call is heard? In a matter of life and death, the person facing the threat doesn't care about the color of the officer's uniform. The deputies serving in the Marshal's Office are all dedicated to total duty and service to the community. While the Council was discussing reduction of the Marshal's staff, Marshal's deputies responded to 911 calls to assist with directing traffic and to answer alarm calls due to bad weather. Marshal's deputies have never flinched when asked to help their brothers and sisters in law enforcement. Duplication of service? No! Duty and service? Yes!
Mr. Hydrick asserted that Mayor Tomlinson is doing the right thing by bringing the Marshal's Office back in line with the duties envisioned by the Charter. Furthermore, Councilor Gary Allen, who has shown he is perfectly willing to punish these deputies in an effort to send a strong message to me, stated that "the duties of the Marshal's Office are clearly outlined in the Charter." That is incorrect. Thus you have a former mayor and member of the original charter commission, along with a long serving city councilor, who apparently have not taken the time to read the Charter they claim clearly outlines the duties of the Marshal's Office.
Mr. Hydrick contends that the mayor is simply trying to do the right thing. What is right about the mayor proposing to transfer eight Sheriff's Office deputies to the Columbus Police Department, or cutting six deputies from a Marshal's Office that has proven in every way to be efficient and effective in service to the community? I seriously fail to understand how any right-thinking person could earnestly say that the mayor's flagrant violation of the Charter is anywhere close to what is right. What should be more apparent by now is that Mr. Hydrick's zealous support of Mayor Tomlinson has blinded him to the larger issue of her intentional and direct violation of the Charter and her oath of office.
That is the real story here.
Greg Countryman, Muscogee County Marshal; www.columbusga.org/marshal.