Mayor Kelly Kautz has fired City Attorney Tony Powell.
In a Dec. 13 email, she told Powell that "after much thought and deliberation, pursuant to my powers granted to me by the Charter of the City of Snellville as Mayor, effective December 13, 2012, I have appointed a new City Attorney, Cruser and Mitchell. This is a decision that I have thought long and hard over. It is not based on personalities but rather what I feel is in the best interest of the City."
Kautz asserts that the relationship between Powell and the City is "irretrievably broken," and that there is "an irreparable breach of trust and communication with [Powell] and all the members of Council and City staff."
An example of her mistrust of Powell is that she did not know he filed a lawsuit against ethics watchdog George Anderson until she read it in media reports, nor did she or the council receive copies of it.
Among other allegations, she claims that his work has 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."
Powell is fighting the termination and believes that only the City Council has the right to terminate his appointment.
"I am the City Attorney and I plan to continue in that capacity until removed by the City Council or I choose to resign the position," Powell said in an email. "Any attempt by that law firm [Cruser and Mitchell] to act on behalf of the City is unauthorized and illegal. I will expeditiously move forward to resolve any questions concerning my position and appointment, but in the interim, they should be duly informed of that they have no actual position or authority."
He believes that her original email was written and published to "maliciously defame" him. He has threatened to file a defamation suit.
Councilman Dave Emanuel said in response to the situation that Kautz is simply looking for a reason to get rid of Powell because "he's not doing what she wants him to do from her personal standpoint."
The last time that Powell was fired and then re-hired, Kautz said that "there's no secret that I did not want Tony. Tony and I had our own issues."
The mayor believed -- and still does -- that there are likely conflicts of interest because Powell serves as a councilman in Lawrenceville.
While the city looked for a replacement for Powell last time, Stuart Oberman filled in as the temporary city attorney. He resigned in February after trying and failing to get paid for months, as previously reported by Snellville Patch. Oberman was finally paid in March to the chagrine of some council members who were still concerned about the costs and the quality of the attorney's work.
In another twist, Powell was hired as the sole attorney for the city council -- a unique move highlighting the lack of trust between some council members and the mayor.
Powell was originally appointed by former mayor Jerry Oberholtzer.
Snellville Patch will provide more information as it is made available.
(Editor's note: due to the alleged defamatory nature of the email to Powell, Snellville Patch will not be publishing the letters in full.)