SNELLVILLE — The Snellville City Council voted Monday to begin looking into the process of retracting the mayor’s ability to appoint and nominate candidates for various positions in the government.
The council voted 4-2 to begin the process of amending the city charter. Though the action voted on Monday made no formal charges, it set the stage for possible future changes that would prohibit Mayor Kelly Kautz from making nominations for positions like city attorney, city manager, city clerk and various boards.
Among other potential changes to the charter, Monday’s resolution would add the words “or council member” to sections previously giving the mayor sole nomination and appointment powers.
Kautz and ally Councilman Mike Sabbagh voted against the move.
“I believe this is only going to intensify the conflict in our city,” Kautz said. “I have tried to compromise on many things, on many nominations, as you’ve seen here tonight ... The charter is something that I have to stand strong on, and that I have to protect not just for the current mayor but for the future mayors of Snellville.”
Sabbagh expressed disappointment that the proposal, made by Councilwoman Diane Krause, wasn’t obtained by the rest of the council until around lunchtime Monday.
Councilman Dave Emanuel said Snellville’s current charter and mayoral appointment capabilities are “out of step with at least six other cities in Gwinnett County.”
“I don’t see it as taking away power from the mayor, I see it as taking an out-of-date charter and bringing it up to date ... I think frankly it will make the council work better together,” Emanuel said. “This isn’t about power, this is about moving forward, this is about overcoming hurdles.”
“If every other city in Gwinnett County can operate in this manner, we certainly can as well.”
Krause said Emanuel’s comments “pretty much exactly” echoed her thoughts on the charter change.
Key in the argument about the charter amendment is the role of the state legislature. Kautz said City Attorney Tony Powell has advised in the past that the change in the charter was something that couldn’t be done without the state.
“The majority of this council did ask the General Assembly to look at our charter and to make changes that took away the nomination power from the mayor,” Kautz said, “and our general assembly did decline to make those changes. I don’t know anything that has changed in the past few months that would make this something that needs to be done now.”
That statement, Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts said in an email Tuesday, is not accurate.
“In order for those changes to be brought before the legislature there would have to be a resolution passed at a public meeting requesting the Georgia legislature to address the changes,” Witts wrote. “No such resolution has ever been discussed by the council, let alone passed.”
Witts said a resolution to change the charter was passed in February, but “we never formulated the changes that we wanted,” and those changes were never presented to the legislature.
Appointments and nominations have not been easy since Kautz took office, and Monday was no different.
Two items on Monday’s budget included slates of three mayor’s nominations apiece for the city’s board of appeals and planning commission. After Witts initiated the move to split up both slates — which were originally proposed as single nominations for each group — voting was held.
On the board of appeals, David Brown (Post 1) and Dennis Lawton (Post 2) were confirmed. Kautz’s nomination of Hank Reid to Post 4 was allowed to die by the council.
On the planning commission, Joe Williams (Post 2) and Ida Graham (Post 3) were successfully nominated. The nomination of Dexter Harrison for Post 4 was voted down.