SNELLVILLE - In a move that took several city council members by surprise Monday night, Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer nominated former mayor Brett Harrell to step in as interim city manager.
Oberholtzer made this nomination as the result of a letter Snellville Mayor Pro Tem Warren Auld sent to state Attorney General Thurber Baker last week, requesting Baker's opinion about Oberholtzer serving as both mayor and interim city manager.
The mayor did not renew former interim city manager Jim Brooks' contract when it expired in February and assumed some of those duties until a permanent city manager is in place.
Baker's opinion stated in part that mayors are not to give direction to city employees, as that responsibility lies with city managers.
Upon hearing councilman Tod Warner's motion to vote on the mayor's nomination of Harrell, Auld and councilwoman Kelly Kautz laughed audibly. Both Auld and Kautz said that because of his position with the Evermore CID, Harrell would not be eligible for the interim job. Harrell's position as executive director of the Evermore CID would, in their words, create a conflict of interest.
Oberholtzer replied that Harrell is the only person he could think of that is capable of assuming the role of interim city manager.
"He was elected by citizens before, so he clearly has their support. He knows the business of the city," said Oberholtzer.
A consulting firm, The Mercer Group, has been hired to find a permanent city manager for Snellville. According to Oberholtzer, the list of candidates has been narrowed to seven. Background checks are being conducted on each of those seven.
"Hopefully, we will have a city manager in four to six weeks," said Warner.
Councilwoman Barbara Bender said, "I'm really kind of sorry we're at this point and having to do this. My preference is to leave things as they are. The city attorney is watching over meetings."
City Attorney Mike Williams sits in on any meetings Oberholtzer attends as interim city manager, monitoring the mayor's actions to ensure lawfulness.
Responding to Oberholtzer's nomination of Harrell, Kautz said: "I am ashamed to be sitting up here on this bench. This nomination is a total disgrace to the city and city council."
Kautz also said she disagrees with Williams' opinion that Oberholtzer can legally serve as both mayor and interim city manager.
When the issue was put to a vote, the motion to approve Harrell's nomination died for lack of a majority. For now, Oberholtzer will continue to serve as the city's interim manager.