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City Nominations Cause Controversy at Snellville Council Meeting

Nominations for different posts and the city manager's seat deepened the rift between the council and mayor.

Snellville Mayor Kelly Kautz, right, explains her frustration with the nominations for STAT at the city council meeting Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Credit: Sarah Bakhtiari
Snellville Mayor Kelly Kautz, right, explains her frustration with the nominations for STAT at the city council meeting Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Credit: Sarah Bakhtiari
The last Snellville City Council meeting of 2013 went out with a bang Monday (Dec. 9) as the council and mayor disagreed on several nominations for different boards and for the city manager's seat. 

During the regular meeting, the controversy started when the officials came across their first nomination item, Krishna Dhokia for Post 5 on the Board of Directors for the Snellville Tourism and Trade Association, a non-profit that organizes the city's events. Mayor Kelly Kautz said she was not informed of the nomination until Thursday (Dec. 5), after she had already voiced to the council through email her nomination for Claudette Forbes for the same post. Dhokia had been nominated by members of STAT.

On the agenda, the nomination item for Forbes was placed after the voting for Dhokia, which Kautz explained was a political ploy. 

"Last meeting, we said we were going to hold hands and play nice, but then this appeared at the last minute on tonight's agenda," she said, adding that appointing the posts for STAT has always been controversial.

She also explained that the city charter details that the mayor, not the council, has the authority to nominate all board appointments. But City Attorney Tony Powell reasoned that STAT is a third party and does not have to rely on the council and mayor for the board selection process. 

"[STAT] does not qualify under the administrative section of the city charter," he said, adding that STAT is not on the same level of the Board of Appeals, Downtown Development Authority and the like. He further explained that, because STAT has its own bylaws, its members can actually override whomever the council approves. 

All five council members ended up voting for Dhokia, with the mayor voting against the item. Forbes' nomination was then therefore moot. 

The next three items were also appointment nominations made by the mayor for different city boards: former Councilman Mike Sabbagh for the Snellville Public Arts Commission, Rose Staples for the Urban Redevelopment Agency and Penny Smith also for the URA. All nominations failed as all five members of the council did not vote in favor of them. 

After the nominations failed, the mayor asked for a five-minute recess. 

But the controversy and disagreements didn't stop there. The council and mayor reconvened to finish the meeting, starting with Kautz's nomination of City Manager Butch Sanders to continue working for the city through Jan. 26, 2014, as his current 16-month term ends Dec. 31, 2013. 

At the last second, Kautz actually removed her sponsorship for the nomination and tried to remove the item altogether. But Sanders actually ended up being voted in 5-1 (the mayor voted against it) for another three years as city manager after Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts brought forward, at the last minute, a contract that he and the city attorney had drafted last week detailing Sanders' employment.

"I think the city is very fortunate to have Mr. Sanders as a city manager," said Witts. "It would be not good for the city to lose Mr. Sanders at this time." Witts added that he had heard of another community who was interested in snagging Sanders as a city manager.

The mayor pointed out that the new contract gives Sanders a higher salary and an increased car stipend, to which Witts said was part of Sanders' first contract. 

"I've enjoyed my 16-month tenure here," said Sanders. "Yes, I want a competitive salary. That's all I ask for. I get enjoyment from the job for what I and the staff, working with the mayor and council at the policy direction of the mayor and council, have to accomplish for this city. And I'm going to do that for everybody in this city."
valentapr December 10, 2013 at 07:44 AM
What DOESN'T cause controversy in Snellville?!?
Snellville Tod December 10, 2013 at 08:09 AM
For the second year in a row the Mayor attempted to appoint a nonmember to the board of Snellville Tourism and Trade Association. I thought it was made clear last year that Council and STAT would not allow nonmembers to be on the board of directors. She stated her nominee would join once she was on the board.
Snellville Tod December 10, 2013 at 08:20 AM
The Mayor raised concerns about the new contract for the City Manager including an increase in both salary and expenses. The funny thing is, the new contract's level of expenditures is still less than his predecessor made! The Mayor tried to install the Police Chief as City Manager previously even when he was not on the final list of applicants for consideration. If Butch Sanders contract was allowed to expire can you guess who, as Assistant City Manager, would take over until Mayor and Council could agree on a replacement? Yet the Mayor claims others are playing politics.
Matt Czarick December 10, 2013 at 07:53 PM
In yesterday's work session Councilwoman Bender and Councilman Witts requested that agenda items, including nominations, be discussed in a work session one week and then presented and acted upon in the next city council meeting (not the one immediately following the same night). This would give adequate time for all members of council to contact the mayors nominations to make sure they were appropriate selections for the position. Some of the board terms are for six years and in my opinion it would be inappropriate for council to approve a nomination that was just submitted to them two or three days prior. There is no need to rush these nominations through. Like in business, it should be about hiring the best available person for the job.
Matt Czarick December 10, 2013 at 07:58 PM
These nominations may very well be qualified, but two days is not enough time to verify that. The only political games being played are by our Mayor. Her Facebook post today proves that point. She tried to discredit everyone, the council members, the city attorney, the city manager, a sitting chairman of one of the city boards etc... It really is a shame.

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