SNELLVILLE -- Calling on the unity theme from last week's inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, Snellville officials set aside one matter of contention Monday.
But members of the embattled council had harsh words for the mayor's pick to serve as city attorney.
In a reversal of process, Mayor Kelly Kautz chose to let the council vote on its mayor pro tem Monday, after her hand-picked second-in-command Mike Sabbagh resigned from the post.
Sabbagh said a work promotion would keep him from fulfilling the role, to which Kautz appointed him in November without the consent of the council.
Kautz, an attorney, said she believes the mayor has the right to appoint the pro tem, but she put the matter up to a vote as a kind of olive branch after a meeting earlier this month erupted in verbal spats.
"As mayor, you are the statesman of the city. You are held to a higher standard," Kautz said, adding that she was "ashamed" of the last meeting.
"If it is for the betterment of our community and it will put an end to the in-fighting, then I think it is appropriate," she said of the pro tem vote, which gave the job to Councilman Tom Witts.
While some of Kautz's proposed appointees to city boards failed Monday, including tapping former Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer to the city planning commission, it was the appointment of her city attorney in November that drew most of the controversy Monday.
Council members have yet to approve the rates and schedules for Stuart Oberman, in his third month in the position.
"The mayor has the right to appoint, and I have the right to ask questions," Councilman Dave Emanuel said, adding that he has problems with the invoices from Oberman as well as the attorney's lack of experience working for government.
"We're the third largest city in the county," Witts said. "I think we deserve to have a city attorney who can get to the bottom of things quickly."
Kautz said she asked former city attorney Tony Powell to continue serving when she was elected but he declined. And, with Oberman on hand as an interim city attorney, she has sought resumes from other attorneys only to find they are not willing to represent the city known for scandal -- where Councilman Emanuel assured residents Monday that arson investigators told him a fire that destroyed his truck was caused by a short under the hood and not a person intent on political retribution, as many had wondered.
"There are city attorneys out there who do not want to touch Snellville," Kautz said, adding that it was not fair of the council to not pay Oberman's bills. "Mr. Oberman has done a fine job, considering the circumstances he has come into."
At the end of the meeting, Ida Graham told council members she was glad to see the growth in respect.
"This word 'unity' is a very special word," she said, pointing to the MLK event theme referenced by many of the councilmembers. "I think all of you are experiencing a learning process. ... We can continue to grow."