SNELLVILLE -- A spirited and contentious specially called meeting of the Snellville City Council on Wednesday ended predictably for those who have followed the group in recent months. Division among the mayor and Council members is very much alive.
In a series of events that began with a 4:30 p.m. press conference called by Mayor Kelly Kautz, and ended about four hours later at the close of the meeting, the day could be summarized in one of Kautz' statements during the meeting.
"Can we all agree to disagree?"
With Councilman Mike Sabbagh out of town on business, a series of motions and resolutions to establish confidence in attorney Tony Powell were decided by a 4-1 vote. Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts and Council members Bobby Howard, Diane Krause and Dave Emanuel voted in favor of Powell as city attorney, and responsible for duties related to the job description, while Mayor Kelly Kautz voted against each action.
Last month, Kautz dismissed Powell as city attorney in part because of what she said were monthly legal fees that were over budget last fall. Kautz also said Powell has pushed for lawsuits instead of giving opinions on city matters. This is the fourth time since Kautz was elected in 2010 that she and a majority of the council have disagreed on a city attorney choice, and the second time Powell has lost his job.
But if Powell lost his job at all was a bone of contention throughout the day.
Also on Wednesday, Kautz asked a Superior Court Judge for an injunction against the Council to take votes at the meeting. But Kautz withdrew her request for a declaratory judgment against the majority of council about the meeting because she said Judge Timothy Hamil wasn't inclined to stop a public meeting with elected officials.
Kautz said Hamil instructed the parties to schedule a hearing date for the issue to be settled, which should be within the next 20 days.
Before the meeting began, Powell and Kautz had a disagreement about Powell sitting alongisde the Council members. After a discussion among the Council, Powell eventually sat in the first row of the audience.
Seated next to him were Karen Woodward and Nola Jackson of the law firm Cruser and Mitchell, who Kautz has appointed as interim city attorneys.
Woodward said her firm was hired to assist with a lawsuit involving resident Marilyn Swinney, who alleged that her civil rights were violated by Kautz in July. Witts confirmed that the lawsuit was settled for $15,000.
At the outset of the meeting, Kautz, Witts and Powell couldn't agree if proper notice of the meeting was established, especially about whether Sabbagh was properly notified. Witts said he left Sabbagh seven voicemails.
As Kautz called the meeting to order "under protest," she motioned to Woodward, who said, "I'm not sure what you want to call my status," before it was eventually clarified as interim city attorney.
The debate reached such a level that Kautz granted two recesses, including one where Kautz said, "we will reconvene at a later date." The meeting then resumed in about five minutes.
Witts and Howard were labeled "out of order" more than once during the meeting, and Howard replied after one exchange, "I have been there all night, I've got no problem with that," he said, which drew applause from the crowd.
The Council meets on Monday for a regularly scheduled meeting.