RAW VIDEO: Snellville Council Meeting
Snellville's City Council approved a resolution chastising Mayor Kelly Kautz and attempting to settle controversies over the city manager and city clerk. In this raw video, Kautz reads the resolution, and Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts and City Attorney Tony Powell weigh in.
SNELLVILLE — With Snellville in a “crisis,” the city council approved a resolution Monday stripping Mayor Kelly Kautz of signatory authority.
The action attempts to settle the position of city manager and city clerk — the city’s top two administrative posts — after two weeks of controversy over the roles. It also takes away the mayor’s power of signing documents and checks.
On Jan. 3, Kautz asked City Manager Butch Sanders to cease work, saying a contract approved by council over her objections is invalid. But Sanders has remained at Snellville City Hall, and the Attorney General’s office pointed toward the city attorney’s opinion on the matter. The signatory issue came up after Kautz said her signature should not be applied to Sanders’ check.
A week later, last Friday, Kautz surprised council members with the hiring of a new city clerk, Phyllis Richardson. She said the mayor has sole authority on that position. But council members disagreed and Melissa Arnold — who has served as clerk for several years in addition to her role as a city purchasing agent — continued to take notes at Monday’s meeting.
“There are emergency functions that are necessary to act on tonight,” said City Attorney Tony Powell, who is also the subject of a lawsuit with the city after Kautz attempted to fire him last year. Powell said the case is similar to his own, where a judge ruled that the mayor does not have the authority alone to fire him, although the case is under appeal.
With the crammed city hall divided — and some in the audience saying the move to keep Richardson from office is racist — Kautz said her council foes are engaging in the same power struggle that has stained the city for years.
“There is history here, and every time they do something wrong they blame the big bad mayor … because I stand up to these bullies,” Kautz said.
Prior to Monday’s council session, the mayor and council spent a half hour in executive session discussing “personnel issues,” a term that has taken on new meaning, after a week and a half with both the city manager’s and city clerk’s contracts called into question. With the resolution stating that Sanders and Arnold keep their positions, the two participated in the meeting, Richardson taking notes in the audience.
At the end of the meeting, Richardson’s attorney said she is waiting to fill her role and collect her salary.
“We are clearly in turmoil, and we need to find a way to get these legal arguments clarified,” Councilwoman Barbara Bender said.
Monday’s resolution said the council could take action at a later time on the mayor’s $400 monthly salary, although Powell and Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts said they had no intention of doing so. Powell referenced a possible court hearing about the issue, although Kautz said she has not hired an attorney and has no immediate plans for action.
“None of this is new. It’s just the same power struggle,” said Kautz, who accused four council members of sitting in an illegal meeting with the city manager Friday. She claims her access to the city’s second floor was cut off after she walked in on the meeting.
After the meeting, nearly a dozen residents took to the podium asking for the council to end its squabbling and “tomfoolery.”
“I’m appalled at what goes on here,” Barbara Ralston told the council. “I think every single one of you sitting up here needs to think is it possible to get along. I think for the good of the community, it would be very important for you to do this.”
The night ended with some discussion about diversity, with Pastor Elijah Collins saying his congregation has seen many African-Americans voted down for city positions.
“We cannot continue to look like what’s behind me, with everybody on one side and everybody on the other side,” Collins said, speaking of the racially divided audience. “No one deserves to be treated the way we were treated (when Richardson was blocked from taking office).”
Former City Councilman Melvin Everson, the city’s first black councilman, said he fought for election before being successful the third time, and he encouraged more diverse candidates to run for office. The former state representative told both the mayor and council members to respect each other.
“I stand here tonight in pain. … I worked hard to bring unity to this city,” Everson said, calling for respect on every side. “Let’s make Snellville a city where everyone is welcome and proud to be somebody.”
MOBILE USERS: Click here to watch raw video footage from the meeting.