Newly Appointed Snellville City Attorneys Resign
Submitted yesterday, the resignation is effective immediately.
The newly appointed Snellville city attorneys, Nola Jackson and Karen Woodward, resigned on Jan. 17, effective immediately.
Jackson and Woodward, lawyers with the Cruser and Mitchell law firm, were appointed on Dec. 13 by Mayor Kelly Kautz, after she said that her relationship with the former attorney, Tony Powell, was "irretrievably broken."
While Jackson and Woodward only said in an email that they felt it was "not in the best interest of Cruser and Mitchell to continue in this position," their decision does end, for now, the debate on whether they are the city's official legal representation or not.
For further reading on Powell's dismissal:
- Mayor Fires City Attorney Tony Powell ... Again
- Special Meeting Called Regarding Removal of City Attorney Tony Powell, Others
- Tempers Flare, Gavels Bang During Special Called Meeting
- Video: Jan. 14 Council Meeting
As it stands now, Powell is still acting as city attorney, despite the fact that Kautz dismissed him. Whether he will be paid is another story, since the mayor holds the purse strings when it comes to city attorneys. This is based off an interpretation of the charter that reads, in part, "the mayor shall appoint the city attorney together with such assistant attorney as may be authorized and shall provide for the payment for such attorneys for services rendered to the city."
Powell was originally selected by former Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer in 2010, at which time Oberholtzer appointed him, then requested the council's vote. Prior to the vote, each council member was given the opportunity to personally meet with him.
Kautz, who was at that time a council member, was the only one to vote "no" on Powell's appointment.
Powell was then replaced by Stuart Oberman, who served as interim city attorney. Oberman resigned in February of 2012 after the city failed to pay him, citing fees that were deemed excessive. (The city took a few months to look over the expenses, but he was eventually paid.)
As to the reason for Powell's most recent firing, Kautz said that, among other things, his work had become "subpar."
"Several factors influenced my decision," she said in an email to Snellville Patch. "The biggest factor is that the City has consistently been over its monthly budget for legal fees after receiving bills for approximately $14,000 for August work, $17,000 for October work and $23,000 for November work. Given the current economic times and my stewardship of the city budget, I feel it is in the best interest of the City and the taxpayers to conduct a search for a new city attorney."
So now, four council members -- Diane Krause, Tom Witts, Bobby Howard and Dave Emanuel -- are contesting the ability of the mayor to personally dismiss city attorneys and appoint new ones. While the process to amend the city charter to prevent this type of chaos from happening again is underway, the question of the mayor's ability to fire Powell is before a judge.