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Détente apparently over in Snellville

SNELLVILLE — During Snellville’s last regular city council meeting, when councilmen Bobby Howard and Tom Witts won re-election to their posts and council woman Barbara Bender won the seat vacated by Mike Sabbagh, olive branches were extended by Mayor Kelly Kautz and council members. The group vowed to work together for the good of the city, saying that the squabbling and bickering would stop. What a difference a few weeks makes.

On Monday night’s agenda were several nominations for the city’s STAT Board, Arts Commission and Urban Redevelopment Agency. There was also an agenda item sponsored by mayor pro tem Tom Witts for the STAT Post 5 Board of Directors.

Kautz had nominated Claudette Forbes to the STAT Board of Directors, making her intentions known via email to all members of council. According to the mayor, that nomination was never acknowledged by council. Kautz went further to say that its city polity to set council meeting agendas three days before scheduled meetings, and at that time, there was no mention of a second nomination — Krishna Dhokia.

“This was sprung on me in shock,” Kautz said of Dhokia’s reappointment.

When the matter came to a vote on Monday, Forbes’ nomination failed for lack of support, and the council voted unanimously (Kautz cast the dissenting vote) to appoint Dhokia for another term.

During the discussion on the matter, Witts asked for city attorney Tony Powell’s opinion. Powell stated that STAT operates differently from other city board and committees — it’s a nonprofit corporation — and therefore the council could sponsor STAT’s nomination of a board member.

Kautz openly laughed, challenged Powell’s opinion, and stated that that very matter was pending in Gwinnett superior court. The mayor cited section 3.11 of the city charter to support her power to nominate a STAT board member. According to Powell, “The provisions of (section) 3.11 do not apply to STAT.”

“At the last meeting, we all held hands and said we were going to play nice. Now this,” Kautz said. After the council failed to support any other nominations made by Kautz — Sabbagh to the Public Arts Commission, and Rose Staples and Penny Smith to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Kautz announced that she would be taking a five minute recess before hearing the next agenda item — that of city manager Butch Sanders’ employment contract.

When the mayor returned from her recess, she said that she wished to remove her sponsorship of an agenda item pertaining to current city manager Butch Sanders’ contract. Kautz’s item was to nominate Butch Sanders for a new contracted term starting Jan. 1, 2014 through Jan. 26, 2014, with the same contract terms as his existing contract.

After the mayor moved to remove the item, Witts asked Powell whether that action was allowed, and Powell said that in fact, council controls the agenda. Kautz challenged Powell’s opinion, saying that he provided an entirely different opinion when Jerry Oberholtzer was mayor. Kautz replied to Powell’s statement, “I suggest your legal opinions don’t blow in the wind,” then added openly, “This is a joke.”

With Powell’s opinion stated, and his assertion that it takes four members of the council to change the city manager, Kautz moved to withdraw her nomination on the agenda, “Unless you want to change your opinion on that, too,” she aimed at Powell, adding that she would be happy to “go in front of an ethics board” if Powell continued to “change his opinion.”

The matter still remained unsolved, so Witts presented a new contract that extends a three-year extension of employment to Sanders, one with incremental raises in compensation and that increases Sanders’ monthly automobile stipend.

The new contract and employment extension were approved by council vote.

ATF ho­nors Snellville PD

Sgt. Bruce Swain, Officer Neal Carter and Investigator Laura Steele were honored Monday by representatives from the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Monday, for their assistance back in February in apprehending a dangerous criminal who appeared to be bent on wreaking havoc in Gwinnett County, specifically on members of the Gwinnett police department.

These three public safety professionals recognized a BOLO (“Be on the Lookout”) for a perpetrator who had stolen silencers belonging to the ATF. Confronting the man on a shoplifting call at Walmart in Snellville, responding officers and even residents helped overpower the man, and he was taken into custody. A search of his home turned up 3,000 rounds of ammunition, the silencers and other firepower.

City hires new PIO

On Monday, Sanders introduced Snellville’s new Public Information Officer, Brian Arrington, formerly with the Walton Tribune newspaper. Arrington’s job will be to keep the public informed in an organized and professional manner about matters concerning the city. The new PIO started on the job last Thursday.

Mayor appoints two to redevelopment board

Mayor Kelly Kautz used her authority under executive order Monday to appoint two board members to the city’s Urban Redevelopment Agency (URA). According to city manager Butch Sanders, based on language in the city statute that addresses redevelopment issues, Kautz named Glenn Kirkland the chairman, and Dwight Harrison the vice-chairman of the URA.