This past weekend, The Augusta Chronicle ran a lengthy story by reporter Susan McCord that detailed the use of money by Mayor Hardie Davis to pay a public relations consultant from funds that were actually intended to help support an underprivileged youth program.
“Davis has refused to say why he paid consultant Ryan Mahoney $4,500 from the My Brother’s Keeper budget to do what invoices say were ‘communications services’ performed in April, May and June, other than that Mahoney contributed to the success of a recent My Brother’s Keeper summit,” McCord wrote. “The Augusta Commission gave Davis a separate budget of $38,750 for My Brother’s Keeper this year, in addition to raising the mayor’s office budget by $100,890 to $409,840.”
Now, this is the same Ryan Mahoney who helped arrange meetings with the local media and the mayor over the past year that had absolutely nothing to do with the My Brother’s Keeper summit.
The Insider knows for a fact that Mahoney helped arrange several interviews for the mayor because a reporter from the Metro Spirit was also contacted by Mahoney regarding a meeting with Davis to talk about the future expansion of the Augusta Common.
There’s no doubt that Mahoney was extremely helpful and professional when representing the mayor, but if he was paid out of the budget for My Brother’s Keeper, then that’s a problem.
Maybe not a problem for Mahoney, because he probably had no idea from which pot he was getting paid, but it’s a major problem for Mayor Davis.
As a public servant, who also happens to be a minister, the mayor should be fully aware that he has to be extremely mindful of public funds and not take advantage of the people’s trust.
The city shouldn’t be required to have the finance department keep a watchful eye over every dollar coming out of the mayor’s office going to programs like My Brother’s Keeper.
For those who might not be aware of My Brother’s Keeper, it is an initiative that was launched by President Barack Obama in 2014 to “address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.”
Three years ago, Obama issued a challenge to cities, towns and counties across the country to become “MBK Communities.” The challenge was a call to action, for mayors in particular, to implement a “coherent cradle-to-college-and-career strategy for improving the life outcomes of all young people.”
Since 2014, more than 250 communities in all 50 states have accepted the president’s challenge, including Augusta-Richmond County. Also, more than $600 million in private sector and philanthropic grants and in-kind resources and $1 billion in low-interest financing have been committed in alignment with the MBK Community Challenge.
Specifically, My Brother’s Keeper is focused on six milestones:
Getting a healthy start and entering school ready to learn.
Reading at grade level by third grade.
Graduating from high school, ready for college and career.
Completing postsecondary education or training.
Successfully entering the workforce.
Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.
So, the obvious question is: What does Mahoney have to do with any of those goals?
And, did Mahoney really play a major part in promoting the My Brother’s Keeper Summit this year?
To say that Mahoney significantly contributed to the success of My Brother’s Keeper Summit would probably be a stretch.
“Davis himself issued a statement in April stating Mahoney was aboard to help him clearly articulate ‘key programs, projects and initiatives like #SOGO and What Works Cities,’ not to serve as a staffer dedicated to the youth program or as a political consultant,” The Chronicle story reported. “SOGO is the mayor’s initiative to redevelop areas south of Gordon Highway.”
Not long after the Chronicle’s story ran, some of the mayor’s supporters have accused the newspaper of trying to make Davis look bad. They insist that the Chronicle wants to discredit Davis in order to put a stop to the mayor’s push to relocate the James Brown Arena to the former Regency Mall location.
Now, that really is a stretch.
If that was true, then the Chronicle’s columnist, Sylvia Cooper, would have to be psychic.
She was looking at the expenditures for My Brother’s Keeper back in 2016, way before the relocation of the James Brown Arena to south Augusta was even publicly discussed.
“The mayor wanted a $487,110 budget for his office next year, but the administrator recommended only $411,240, which is still a $102,290 increase. She also approved $38,750 for his ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ program, which is supposed to help young black males,” Cooper wrote in a 2016 column. “President Barack Obama gets millions in donations from private corporations and businesses for his ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative. I suppose the mayor could do that too, but Jackson took such a swipe at Starbucks, ADP, Keebler and Procter & Gamble about the city missing out on millions because of tax exemptions during her budget presentation, they might not be feeling so generous.”
The truth of the matter is, Mayor Davis should pay back the $4,500 provided to Mahoney via the budget for My Brother’s Keeper initiative. If not out of his own pocket, then out of the budget specifically intended for the mayor’s office.
Not because he has to, but because it’s the right thing to do.