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Attorney General's Office Responds to Snellville Mayor on City Manager Issue

Mayor Kelly Kautz asked last week for an advisory opinion on whether the city council's approval of the city manager's contract was legal or not.

Georgia's attorney general's office has responded to Snellville Mayor Kelly Kautz' request on the city manager's employment. 

Kautz was seeking an advisory opinion from Attorney General Sam Olens on whether the Snellville City Council's approval of the city manager's contract in December conflicted with the city charter and contract law. 

On behalf of Olens, Deputy Attorney General Dennis R. Dunn wrote Kautz a letter saying that the AG cannot provide an opinion on the matter. 

He further explained in the Jan. 7th letter: 

"In Georgia, the Attorney General provides legal advice and representation only to our clients within state government. We cannot provide legal services to local political subdivisions with which we have no attorney-client relationship and where the issues involved relate exclusively to the internal operations and management of such an independent political subdivision. Instead, such services are more appropriately provided by the local government's own attorney or counsel. Additionally, the specific facts and circumstances regarding questions are better known or available to local counsel in addressing such questions. Should litigation develop regarding the City's actions in relation to your question, the City would be represented by its own counsel and not by this office."

The city manager's issue roots back to a situation that occurred at the Dec. 9th city council meeting. City Manager Butch Sanders' 16-month term with the city ended Dec. 31, 2013, so a renewal contract was on the agenda. The original agenda item, sponsored by Kautz, had proposed that Sanders' contract be extended only through Jan. 26, during his evaluation. 

Kautz decided to remove her sponsorship for the nomination and tried to remove the item altogether. But Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts brought forward a three-year contract for Sanders that he and City Attorney Tony Powell had drafted the week before. The council approved the contract 5-1, with Kautz voting against it.

On Friday (Jan. 3), the same day she wrote to Olens, Kautz sent an email to Sanders saying that he should "cease" being the city manager since she didn't nominate him and since his old contract ended. The next day, City Attorney Tony Powell explained that Sanders was still employed with the city since, per the city charter, the city manager can only be suspended or removed if four members of the mayor and council voted on for it. 

Even after Powell's response, by Monday (Jan. 6) Kautz still didn't recognize Sanders as the city manager. She reiterated in another letter to Sanders that he should stop working until the attorney general can offer his input, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post. She also said that she had not authorized payment for Sanders for the pay period. 

Kautz told Snellville Patch she will have a statement later Wednesday (Jan. 8). 

See also: 
hazybuck January 08, 2014 at 01:55 PM
Boo-ya . . . . is that how the kids spell it?
Phillip S Wallace January 08, 2014 at 02:19 PM
It seems, based upon what has been presented from the two sides, is that the charter is written so that once appointed, the City Manager must essentially be impeached to be forced out, and it takes four votes. Assuming this is the case, in that case all a contract does is assure both sides what the terms of compensation will be for a fixed period. In this sense, then, the City Manager is more akin to a confirmed judge whose salary is set year by year by Congress, vice a free agent baseball player. I'm not sure Ms. Kautz has a leg to stand upon if there is no countervailing charter clause or State Supreme court case law. I would hope she has those citations ready before escalation of the affair--because that is what a statesman would have at the ready if he had chosen a hill to die on.
Pat Binger January 08, 2014 at 03:03 PM
Wow, Phillip, very well stated. I guess we'll find out what she plans to do next in her soon to be issued statement. This is better than a James Patterson book.
Pat Binger January 08, 2014 at 04:51 PM
I heard that she plans to not sign the manager's paycheck. What a puttz.
John Hornbuckle January 08, 2014 at 07:05 PM
If four city council members sign the city managers paycheck it should not matter it the mayor signs it or not. Let the twits take her to court to argue the validity of the contract. Mayor is a lawyer and not near as legally qualified as a kitchen contractor. Oh the city attorney is a lawyer after all and a major contributor ($1,000) to the campaign of the candidate that ran against the mayor. The whole council smells like yesterdays diaper.
Erin T. McLaughlin January 08, 2014 at 07:32 PM
She continues to embarrass herself. Worse, though, is how she represents our town. I don't mean to be insulting; but, in all honesty, my initial thought on this was, "I truly hope that the rest of Georgia doesn't think that this is a town full of tantrum-throwing ignoramuses." Most high school students could tell you who the Attorney General's office assists. Those that could not explain could easily look up the AG's responsibilities on Wikipedia, I'm sure.
Matt Czarick January 08, 2014 at 07:55 PM
Don't the let the facts get in the way of your argument there John! The facts are very clear with this situation just as they were with city attorney controversy. I have lost count, but if I am not mistaken every legal challenge (regarding the city) this mayor has brought before the court she has lost. Can anyone tell me why Butch Sanders should not be the city manager? What has he done (or not done) that would warrant removing him from his position? Anyone? If there is no just cause, then this is for pure political reasons.
Phillip S Wallace January 08, 2014 at 08:06 PM
Well, all will be as it will be, but from a practical perspective it seems to me that if the Mayor does not sign the paycheck, and it later turns out she should have, then, if I have my facts correct, this will leave her in the position of having once taken money out of the city treasury when she should not have/had no authority to do so, and of having once left money in the city treasury when she should not have/had no authority to do so. Naturally, if she wins any legal challenge, the point is moot--she will have been right. If she doesn't win...
Matt Czarick January 08, 2014 at 08:17 PM
Here is what I don't understand. Why is this weeks check even in question? I don't know their pay cycle, but I would suspect this weeks paycheck covers days Mr. Sanders worked prior to her attempt to remove him. If she fails to pay him, it seems to me he would have a valid legal claim against her and the city. But what do I know, I am not an attorney like her.
Dr. Bill January 08, 2014 at 08:29 PM
It would appear that Mayor Kautz has been carefully studying online courses at the Rob Ford School of Mayoral Mis-guidedness.
Laurice Herzog January 08, 2014 at 08:34 PM
Seriously? The Mayor is an attorney? She comes across as an evil, bitter, self-serving, obstinate, selfish, rude, person. What is her freakin' problem? I am so tired of reading all these Patch stories about the spoiled brat who didn't get what she wanted. Clearly, Butch pissed her off in some way. She puts him on the docket for extending his contract, then the wind blows and she changes her mind and tries to withdraw the item. Kelly, grow up and put on your big girl panties and act like an adult for once in your life. You are a disgrace to Snellville and the Mayor's office. I don't understand why impeachment proceedings haven't taken place yet to get this incompetent, whiny "woman" out of that position.
Brenda Lee January 08, 2014 at 08:47 PM
Laurice, it's not really about Sander's qualifications or performance. It's about Kautz wanting Chief Whitehead as the city manager and the fact that she knows she's outnumbered.
Laurice Herzog January 08, 2014 at 09:00 PM
I never said that it had anything to do with Sander's qualifications. It has nothing to do with anything but whatever her whim of the day is. Isn't anyone else sick of riding the Kautz roller coaster?
Phillip S Wallace January 08, 2014 at 09:38 PM
Here is another practical consideration, from a non-lawyer (four master's degrees, but no Juris Doctor)--say the Mayor does not sign, and Mr. Sanders sues *the city*. Wouldn't that be some spectacle, with the City Attorney saying "yes, we are wrong" before the judge? Would be sort of a quick trial, wouldn't it? How exactly does the Mayor propose to get standing to defend her view if she is not personally sued? And how would she propose to fund it, because I would somewhat doubt, based upon what I can observe, that she is going to get authorization for such a defense.
Phillip S Wallace January 08, 2014 at 09:56 PM
As an addendum to my previous--if there is in fact anything improper about Mr. Sanders contract, then the only way it will get rectified is by a third party lawsuit (which I am sure can be arranged). I simply see no path forward for the Mayor on her current tack--sufficient power simply isn't there. If the third party lawsuit wins, the Mayor is vindicated and is a champion of the people. If it doesn't...then some things will need to change.
Michelle McGill Couch January 09, 2014 at 09:22 AM
I sincerely hope that the mayor puts this one to bed, signs the check and the forward motion can continue.
J. Davenport January 09, 2014 at 12:26 PM
Michelle if the past actions of Kautz are any indication, then I think that we all know that the odds of her putting this to bed and let the forward motion continue are slim to none.
J. Davenport January 09, 2014 at 12:30 PM
Another point that I would like to bring up is, in one of the post I had read, she had stated something to the effect that there are citizens of Snellville that think that she should continue to pursue legal action in this matter. Yet I have not seen a single comment or post from anyone that thinks that she should again waste more of the cities monies on legal action that she will not win. I am sure that these "citizens" are primarily members of her "kitchen cabinet" and the people that want to control the City of Snellville for their own benefit rather than the way that our City Council is looking out for the best interest of the citizens of Snellville.
Arnold Darsey January 10, 2014 at 03:33 PM
I think I will sit a few rows back at the meeting Monday night.
Michelle McGill Couch January 10, 2014 at 06:14 PM
And the saga continues.... I feel (as others I'm sure) that the city is being torn apart in any way that the mayor can find. I'm beyond belief at this point.

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