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Snellville election season shaping up to be contentious

SNELLVILLE — With qualifying for the upcoming November election in Snellville underway, a storm is already brewing on the city’s horizon. While Monday’s city council meeting agenda was a straightforward one with typical city business the focus of the meeting, confrontational undertones and snide remarks popped up throughout the course of the proceedings.

When Barbara Bender, city volunteer, president of the Snellville Entrepreneur Council and newly qualified candidate for the council’s Post 5, presented a status report to Mayor Kelly Kautz and council members Monday , her detailed presentation was answered by Kautz with one curt question. Kautz asked Bender whether she plans to resign as president of the Entrepreneur Council now that she has qualified to run for city council.

Bender answered that she would not be resigning as president, to which Kautz quizzed, “So you’re saying that the Entrepreneur Council is not part of the city?”

The mayor went on to explain that she is concerned that an organization not considered part of the city receives city funds.

Councilman Dave Emanuel asked City Attorney Tony Powell his opinion on whether Bender should resign. While Powell said that he did not come to the meeting prepared to answer such a question, he opined that the Entrepreneur Council, as a nonprofit organization, would be considered different from, for example, the Downtown Development Authority.

“While you’re giving that opinion, I’d like to know how the (Entrepreneur Council) is receiving city funds,” Kautz said to Powell. When Bender attempted to address Kautz’s question, she was told by the mayor that she had given her report and that her opportunity to speak had passed.

Later in Monday’s meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts reminded Kautz that, at her direction in 2011, the Entrepreneur Council was indeed an organization independent of the city.

Kautz ended the back-and-forth with the remark, “Election time in Snellville. You gotta love it.”

Squabble surrounding addition to agenda

Witts asked Monday that an additional agenda item be added to the meeting agenda under “New Business.” The mayor pro tem wanted to discuss and possibly take action on Oak Road Park, a proposed passive park on that same road. Kautz told Witts that the item could not be added, as it had not been publicly advertised in time for the public to know it was being discussed.

Witts then asked Powell what his opinion on the matter was, and Powell said that an item can legally be added if it is deemed “necessary to address.” The problem, stated Powell, is that “necessary” is a subjective term, so the guidelines are vague. Powell did add that “the body itself controls the agenda, according to Roberts Rules of Order,” indicating that the item could, in fact, be added without a problem.

Kautz then told Witts that he could add the item if he was not interested in the transparency of government. Witts then withdrew his request to add the item but asked Powell to get an opinion from the attorney general for future reference. Powell stated that he doubted the attorney general would take the time to give an opinion on whether a council can amend its own agenda.

Howard calls for an end to political vitriole

Councilman Bobby Howard, who has also qualified as a candidate for re-election to his council seat, made a public call for an end to the politically driven shenanigans that have come to characterize the city of Snellville. Placing his personal cellphone number on an overhead display for all to see Monday evening, Howard encouraged voters to call that number if the same tactics (anonymous letters, fliers and emails) that plagued the city’s last election resurfaced during this election season.

“Some things were discovered” about the cloak-and-dagger politics used in 2011, and Howard distributed printed reports of the police department’s findings to those who attended Monday’s meeting. The detailed police reports tell a sordid tale of fingerprinting, typewriter print matching and dodging police interviews, all revolving around the attempt to find out who was behind the below-the-belt tactics. While some familiar names are mentioned throughout the reports, no criminal charges were ever filed by involved agencies.

Howard said Monday that the political “games” have already started, and it’s only August.

“They can hurt me, but I have nothing to hide. Anyone can ask me any questions at any time,” Howard said.

Publicly, he called for all qualified candidates and their supporters to run clean campaigns this year.

Property owner must compensate for tree removal

Council members voted Monday to grant property owner Constantine Angus of Petra Realty several variances and other requests for the .493 acres located at 2128 East Main Street. None of the granted actions is valid, however, until Angus compensates the city for removing an old oak tree that stood on the formerly residential property. Angus had the tree removed because he had planned to put a parking lot in the spot, although the tree removal was in violation of city policy and procedures.

Zoning conditions were originally placed on the property in 2007, but nothing has been done with the property since then. Angus cited difficult economic conditions as the reason for inaction on development of the property.