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Snellville council meets after lawsuit is served

Snellville Council members sat behind placards labeling them as “defendents” Monday, after being served with a lawsuit filed by the mayor Friday.

Snellville Council members sat behind placards labeling them as “defendents” Monday, after being served with a lawsuit filed by the mayor Friday.

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Snellville Council members Diane Krause, left, and Bobby Howard sat behind placards labeling them as “defendents” Monday, after being served with a lawsuit filed Friday by Mayor Kelly Kautz, right.

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Snellville Council members Tom Witts and Barbara Bender sat behind placards labeling them as “defendents” Monday, after being served with a lawsuit filed by the mayor Friday.

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Councilwoman Diane Krause prepares for Monday’s City Council meeting, finding home-made placards that labeled the council members as “defendents,” after the mayor filed a lawsuit against them Friday.

SNELLVILLE — Instead of councilmen, six of Snellville’s elected officials took on a new title Monday, sitting behind homemade placards declaring them as defendants, about an hour after they were served with a lawsuit from the mayor.

While the board moved forward on issues from the town green to city park, the lawsuit cast a pallor over the proceedings, with Councilman Bobby Howard lifting the 72-page document, saying it is a reason he did not vote on city nominations.

For the second time, Councilwoman Barbara Bender put off a vote acknowledging the Greater Eastside Chamber of Commerce as the city’s local chamber, saying she hopes to keep the contention at City Hall from impacting commerce.

“I don’t want it to be part of the madness,” she said, adding that the vote likely would be held next month. “This type of publicity is very detrimental.”

Bender said after the meeting she had heard from a businessman that developers would not build in the city during the strife, which erupted earlier this month when Mayor Kelly Kautz asked City Manager Butch Sanders to cease working and attempted to hire a new city clerk without the council’s approval.

Two weeks ago, the council approved a resolution keeping Sanders and Melisa Arnold, who has been clerk for several years, in those positions. But on Friday Kautz sued the council, Sanders and Arnold, alleging they are obstructing her from doing her duty.

Resident Marilyn Swiney said she plans to keep track of the attorney’s expense on the case, where a hearing has not been set.

She also addressed the board about her concern that businesses “do not want to be involved in a city of turmoil.”

“We will be a pass-through city,” she said. “The citizens will have Kelly Kautz to blame for that because she doesn’t know how to work with other people.”

The controversy developed into a racial divide at the council’s Jan. 13 session, so Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts took to the podium to say that race has not been a factor in nominations to citizen boards.

Witts pointed to a chart explaining every nomination since last summer, pointing out that five of the nominations approved were men and six women, and four of the 11 are minorities.

Witts suggested applications for those positions go through the board in question, such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority, so the applicant has a better understanding of the task ahead. He withdrew his nominee for the authority while the council declined to vote on the mayor’s two nominations for that board and another for the Snellville Arts Commission.

“We need to have people on the boards who are vested in it,” Witts said about the proposed process. On the racial issue, he added, “The city of Snellville does not turn its back on anybody. … This is reality.”

While no hearings have been set in the mayor’s lawsuit, it was unclear how the suit would impact the city’s future business.

During a work session, Bender asked about a planning retreat, planned for Friday, which has been on council members’ schedules for weeks.

Kautz said she was “not inclined” to discuss the matter.

When asked City Attorney Tony Powell said general discussion could be brought up during a work session, but noted that “discussion with the mayor is the key ingredient.”

Bender allowed: “I will bow to her wishes on this.”

After walking out of the council’s executive session, Kautz returned and shouting could be heard from the hallway.

Bender said the council may call a special session to go forward with the retreat.