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Norcross leaders squabble over pro tem spot

LAWRENCEVILLE - In a twist of politics just a week before a City Council election, Norcross leaders have disparate opinions on who the mayor pro tem is.

Councilman David McLeroy contends Michael Lovelady gave up the position when he was named acting mayor in June and Charlie Riehm was named mayor pro tem.

But Lovelady, Riehm and the city attorney say Lovelady got the title of mayor pro tem back when Lillian Webb redonned her title of mayor.

The issue is just one more rift in the council that has feuded all year and came to a head when the city's leader for decades, Webb, broke her hip and spent time in the hospital.

After the Memorial Day accident, the council held an emergency special called meeting on June 12. McLeroy contends the meeting was illegal because the public was not properly notified.

There, Riehm made a motion to declare Webb disabled, and Lovelady was named acting mayor, a position not outlined in the city charter. In the charter, the mayor pro tempore has the ability to act in the stead of the mayor if he or she is absent.

Lovelady said the council followed the advice of the city attorney, and because he travels frequently for work, he asked for a second in command to be named.

That is when Riehm was named mayor pro tem. The minutes of the June 12 meeting do not say that Riehm's title would include the word "acting," but it does say he would act "in the absence of Mayor Webb."

McLeroy, who seconded the motion to name Riehm, said the council can name a mayor pro tem at any time and that choice was permanent.

In fact, he said Riehm should have been acting in Webb's place while Lovelady was standing in.

"I think we got bad legal advice," McLeroy said.

Last week, City Attorney Joe Fowler issued an opinion that the council intended for Riehm's appointment to be temporary, so when Webb took over again as mayor, Lovelady automatically went back to the mayor pro tem position.

Fowler became city attorney at the beginning of this year, when Peter Boyce resigned after 20 years. The resignation coincided with the elections of Riehm and Terry Bowie, who sided with Lovelady in the naming of Fowler.

But Fowler said he doesn't take sides in politics.

"I call 'em like I see 'em," he said. "If Mayor Webb is back, everybody goes back to their seat."

McLeroy said that for Lovelady to become mayor pro tem, there should be a new council vote. Both McLeroy and Lovelady face re-election battles.

Riehm, though, said he isn't interested in the title and simply wanted to make sure the city wasn't left without a captain when Lovelady left town.

"The sum total of my actions was two ribbon cuttings," he said. "We're wasting time on this. If the legal attorney's opinion isn't good enough, they'll have to decide what to do."

Webb, who was back in the hospital last week for scheduled hip replacement surgery, said she was disgusted by the entire procedure, which she described as "showmanship."

"I thought it was an embarrassing situation," she said, adding that she also believes Riehm is the mayor pro tem.

She mentioned hip replacements of Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter and Commissioner Bert Nasuti. Lawrenceville Mayor Bobby Sikes has missed numerous meetings while undergoing cancer treatments, and Auburn Mayor Harold Money was incapacitated for four months after a car accident.

"It's probably an unusual situation," Amy Henderson of the Georgia Municipal Association said. "But I think it's going to be up to the council. It's how they interpret their charter."