The answer is a definitive, “No.”
Seriously. There is no doubt about it.
Why, you ask?
Well, the weekend before the Augusta Commission retreat, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis wrote a guest column in The Augusta Chronicle encouraging his colleagues to use the meeting to “chart a new course for the city and its residents.”
“This retreat will be an opportunity not only to find common ground on what we can accomplish together, but also to share our ideas, fears, frustrations and hopes for better working relations through understanding roles and responsibilities,” the mayor wrote.
The mayor even used a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, in which he talked about “the fierce urgency of now.”
“Augusta has reached that place — the place of urgency, and the place of addressing longstanding issues now,” the mayor wrote. “I hope the retreat becomes a catalyst for finding common ground on the things that we, as elected officials can accomplish together for the great good of the entire city.”
In this guest column, the mayor seems earnest and genuine, which is a side he often hesitates to share with the public.
It was encouraging and thoughtful.
Then, the guest column suddenly becomes much more technical about the mission of a retreat and its strategic and tactical challenges.
“Many retreats fail because the leaders choose to ‘underlead,’” the mayor wrote in Sept. 12 guest column in the Chronicle. “Retreats are special opportunities for leaders to lead and, more importantly, to act. They can clarify the mission; ask for and weigh ideas; step back and look at how the team is performing; discuss changes to improve performance; or alter the direction altogether.”
All of a sudden, the editorial didn’t sound like the mayor.
It sounded like a manual.
“Too often, retreats are seen as separate from regular work, as a stand-alone event,” the mayor wrote. “Not surprisingly, this leads to the ‘Monday morning problem’ — when we return to the office, everyone forgets about the retreat and carries on with business as usual.”
Anyone who has been around the Augusta Commission knows there is no such thing as a “Monday morning problem” for the commissioners.
A commissioner’s role, whether they acknowledge it or not, is not a full-time job. Now, some work very hard, but it’s not like they get to work at 8 a.m. like the rest of the employees down at the Marble Palace.
Suddenly, there was something fishy about the mayor’s editorial and, let’s just say, some of his colleagues noticed.
“The best retreats are treated as moments of intense activity in a larger process,” the mayor wrote. “The leader, the committee and the facilitator lay the groundwork so that the retreat time is used most effectively.”
Now, it doesn’t take a genius to realize, “What a minute. This doesn’t sound like the mayor.”
Well, you’re right. It’s not the mayor.
Turns out, the mayor actually did not write almost six paragraphs of this guest column that ran in The Augusta Chronicle.
He took those six or seven paragraphs, practically word for word, from a 2013 paper written by Eric Svaren, principal of the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC), which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the success of local governments in Washington state.
Basically, the mayor plagiarized a good portion of his guest column to The Augusta Chronicle and one of his colleagues noticed.
So, who cares?
Maybe, nobody. But, you should.
(On a brief side note, The Augusta Chronicle should definitely care. Plagiarism is not something newspapers should ignore. Remember former Chronicle editorial editor Phil Kent and his trouble with plagiarizing conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan. All right, enough said.)
But if the mayor is trying to inspire the Augusta Commission, he may want to use his own words. It’s more sincere and genuine.
His guest column didn’t need all of that high-brow language that really didn’t mean anything to anyone.
It was so unnecessary. And, now, because he didn’t credit Svaren for the language in his column, it has left the mayor open to criticism from some folks ready to attack him.
Anyway, so much for a positive retreat. It was basically over before it started.