SNELLVILLE -- Four city council members voted to engage and retain the services of separate legal counsel Monday, citing their lack of confidence in interim city attorney Stuart Oberman's ability and experience. Mayor Kelly Kautz appointed Oberman to the position last November.
"(City) council feels that they need representation ... we feel it's necessary at this point to protect our rights and the rights of those who elected us," said Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts.
Councilmen Dave Emanuel and Bobby Howard and Councilwoman Diane Krause echoed Witts' opinion.
"I'm not comfortable with some decisions that have been made (by Oberman). What's lacking is clarity," Howard said.
Krause said Monday that Oberman is her personal attorney, and she is "very confident" in his abilities in that capacity. "This is nothing personal. I would just like a municipal attorney to stand with this council."
Tony Powell, former Snellville city attorney, will serve as the separate legal counsel.
Kautz and councilman Mike Sabbagh voted against the action, with Kautz saying there has been no money budgeted to pay another attorney. The mayor also said Powell supported her opponent Barbara Bender - in the November mayoral election with a financial contribution. Powell is also an elected official in the city of Lawrenceville, and Kautz said that poses a conflict of interest.
Oberman's invoices to Snellville for his services remain unpaid amid the dissension and disagreement.
By the same 4-2 vote Monday, Snellville attorney Mike Byrne was appointed the city's parliamentarian. Byrne will be tasked with ensuring that proper procedure is followed during parliamentary proceedings.
Kautz did not support Byrne's appointment for several reasons. She said Byrne supported both Witts and Bender in elections and that he is likely not familiar with Roberts Rules of Order revised last October, which specifies that everyone should be comfortable with the parliamentarian. Kautz also said that she believes she has the authority to appoint the parliamentarian, not the city council.
Sabbagh apologizes for actions in Marietta
Sabbagh read a formal letter of apology to his colleagues and Monday evening's council meeting audience for his controversial actions last October at a Marietta governmental meeting. In that meeting, Sabbagh, by his admission, said that "I should have chosen other words." He added that "there was no malice, there were no threats and no intent."
As a result of Sabbagh's action Monday, Howard dropped his pursuit of an investigation into the matter, and other council members thanked Sabbagh for making a public, formal apology.