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Poll: Should Snellville's Mayor Lose Powers?

In a 4-2 vote, Snellville City Council voted this week to move forward with a plan to reduce the mayor's powers to appoint a city attorney.

For weeks now, several members of city council have been particularly peeved with Mayor Kelly Kautz.

Last night, the council voted to do something about that. No, they aren't discrediting the election, but they do want to relieve Kautz's powers to appoint a city attorney.

It was a 4-2 vote to amend the charter, with Dave Emanuel, Diane Krause, Tom Witts and Bobby Howard voting for the resolution. Kautz and Councilman Mike Sabbagh were in opposition.

The specific section of the charter that the city council wants to revise is 3.12. It reads:

"The mayor shall appoint a city attorney, together with such assistant city attorneys as may be authorized, and shall provide for the payment of such attorney or attorneys for services rendered to the city. The city attorney shall be responsible for providing the representation and defense of the city in all litigation in which the city is a party; may be the prosecuting officer in the municipal court; shall attend the meetings of the city council as directed; shall advise the city council, mayor, and other officers and employees of the city concerning legal aspects of the city's affairs; and shall perform such other duties as may be required of him or her by virtue of his or her position as city attorney."

It's important to note that significant changes of the charter cannot be done without legislative approval. In this case, council is seeking action by the General Assembly.

It's the end of the 2011-2012 session, which means it could be next year before anyone hears about this again.

Sometimes, changes of the charter can be done through what is called "home rule," in which council makes changes without legislators. Sometimes referendums are sought in these cases, and citizens get the chance to vote.

In 2005, the city made changes to the mayor's powers through "home rule," but those changes were "defective" said Tony Powell, previous permanent counsel for Snellville.

In 2010, the city had to reverse itself, but revoking the power of the mayor was never something that could be done by the council alone anyhow, Powell said.

If changed, the amended powers of the mayor would apply not only to Kautz, but any other mayor in the future. (That is until and unless council wants to change this again and is successful.)

In the meantime, what do you think Snellville? Take our poll.

Dave Emanuel March 03, 2012 at 05:57 PM
You're on to something, Ned. As I pointed out in a previous comment, this poll is absolute folly. This issue has absolutely nothing to do with stripping the mayor of any powers, and everything to do with involving the whole council in decisions that affect both the council members and the citizens. The question I have is, "Why would anyone not want the whole council involved in the selection of the City Attorney?"
Ned Lane March 03, 2012 at 06:12 PM
My point wasn't that there is a flaw in the Patch's system. It is obviously entertainment, not a real poll. The Patch poll said quite clearly it was not a scientific poll. My point was to question what could be the motivation behind someone spending the time to manipulate the poll. I'm also curious, what happened to Tony Powell, the last City Attorney.
Jim Burton March 03, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Frank - the only reason I added attorneys (ones that have a true knowledge of Constitution law) to the list for a committee re-look at our Charter is so that we can ensure that any recommended changes would be legal so as to prevent further litigation costs.
Joy L. Woodson March 03, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Thanks Ned! Yes, the poll always says that it is not scientific. I actually know a thing or two or three about scientific surveys. Went through very arduous courses on that in grad school. And, as I explained to Councilman Emanuel above all Patch polls are just another mechanism for people to interact with the site and each other. But, it is interesting what you bring up, Ned. Either way, sounds like it's something people are passionate about, one way or the other. Tony Powell is still around. We wrote a story on that regarding the council wanting its own attorney. His firm is the one the council chose. Something I have wondered, why wasn't this charter change brought up last year when Jerry Oberholtzer was mayor. I think it's an obvious question. Any takers on that?
Gail Lane March 03, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Hoping somebody can fill in the blank here on that, and I haven't dug through last year's minutes, but I believe Jerry made the appointment and asked for council approval, so this wasn't an issue.
Joy L. Woodson March 03, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Gail, that would seem the logical answer to my question. Thanks! If the former mayor did that, and I don't know (I'll have to look it up), then council wouldn't have felt left out of things as it seems they feel now. Maybe one of the folks in the comment section already knows, and can reference the specific motion for all of us... I'll look it up though. Or, maybe the council people who were there can tell us.
Gail Lane March 03, 2012 at 08:00 PM
I haven't found the nomination/appointment in the meeting minutes so far, so hopefully somebody can set things straight on that count. The preceding 2 years showed a government working cooperatively within itself and, from my experiences in the city, a citizenry that was thankful for the forward progress. And if folks seem a little bit upset or feel strongly at this time, I would say it might because they had gotten used to a functional administration. They didn't all agree on everything at the same time, but they did work cooperatively between themselves with great respect for one another. Being back in the media with negative overtones just doesn't bode well for businesses, citizens, tourism or folks who have interests in Snellville.
Ned Lane March 03, 2012 at 08:44 PM
I like this new media. It is great to be able to see the actual e-mails and the actual comments of those involved, instead of seeing a filtered version. I would like to know why there was a need for a new City Attorney other than Tony Powell. As far as I know, last fall Mr Powell was the City Attorney and everything was rolling along fine. Did Mr Powell quit, creating a need to find a new city attorney quickly? Was his contract terminated, thereby causing a problem where previously one had not exisited? Was there some problem with Mr Powell's services, necessitating the City hiring a new attorney? Was he forced to quit by an uncomfortable working situation?
Dave Emanuel March 03, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Ned- how do you feel about an "Alpha Dog" answering your questions? If that's acceptable, let me know and I'll reply-- probably with a blog post because the questions you've raised deserve answers that consist of much more than just a few sentences.
Joy L. Woodson March 03, 2012 at 10:05 PM
The answer I got to this question was, and I've written it somewhere here on Patch before, that Powell left because Mayor Kelly Kautz planned to appoint someone else. Why Mayor Kautz wanted someone else? Well, guess, only the mayor knows that. I'm still wondering why the planning director left so suddenly last year. That's even more of quandary to me than this one. We never did get a reason for his departure.
Gail Lane March 03, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Not sure what happened to the Planning Director, Joy. But the Gwinnett Daily Post said he received a 2 month's severance. Most times, folks don't get that if they quit. I applaud the administration for not politicizing his departure. Personnel matters are best left confidential.
Ned Lane March 03, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Joy's answer makes sense. I'd be interested to hear your take, Dave. I like alpha dogs being chosen democratically. If you have 4 votes, feel free to bark. If you only have 2, votes feel free to bark, but you should not get off that short chain until you have 4 others agreeing with you.
Tom Witts March 04, 2012 at 12:01 AM
As a member of the Council that approved Mr Powell I can clear this up. Tony was nominated by Mayor Oberholtzer, prior to the vote each member of council was asked to meet with the candidate. I know for a fact that council members Bender, Warner, Sabbagh, and myself met with Mr Powell. ( to the best of my knowledge then Councilwoman Kautz did not). Since 2004, the only Attorney appointed by the Mayor without Council's input was Mr. Oberman. Mayor Kautz never served with a City Attorney that she did not have a voice in appointing. Tom Witts
Tom Witts March 04, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Mr Powell was told that his services were no longer required. I also understand that Mr Powell could not agree with the Mayor's interpretation of her ability to appoint the Mayor Pro Tem, believing that her interpretation was a violation of the City Charter. There is much misinformation out there about all that has occurred over the past 4 months. I am reluctant to be the one who continuously explains or complains. It is counterproductive, and does nothing to advance the community pride in Snellville that I have worked so hard at for the past 2 years. I would just ask that citizens consider ALL the facts before judging those of us on Council who have been consistent in wanting nothing more than to advance Snellville and make it the place that we all want to call home with PRIDE. That cannot be accomplished if we speak about nothing but the feuds and negative press that a minority of our politicians and population seem to thrive on. I am committed to making Snellville a place where Everbody is PROUD to be Somebody and will deal with the detractors of that concept as I feel is appropriate or necessary.
Gail Lane March 04, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Councilman Witts, thanks for the input. I see that your comments are not showing up here; you might want to check with Joy to see if there's a problem. Thanks, all, for the straightforward discussion and answers and respectful tone of the day. I enjoyed it! And thanks, Joy, for providing this forum for us to get some things straightened out.
Tom Witts March 04, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Once again i was on council at the time that this occurred. This was a decision made by our City Manager without any input from the City Council as was falsefully reported by one member of council. I personally found about this from the media. When I asked the City manager why i ws not informed i was told that he felt it better that council was insulated from the decision. Our city Manager has sole authority over the hiring and firing of staff. I believe that is how it should be. The mayor and council cannot hold him 100% responsible for carrying out the policies and vision of the council unless he has 100% authority over staff.
Joy L. Woodson March 04, 2012 at 02:19 AM
No problem, Gail... I also know that there is a bug in how Tom Witts' profile "talks" with the CMS (Content Management System) here. His and the mayor's are always disappearing. When I see it, I always go back in and approve them.
Gail Lane March 04, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Awesome! I know these things can get goofy sometimes ...Thanks Joy!
Frank Gallick March 04, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Mr Witts, as stated by Ms Moorw thank you for your input. Nothing is better than jearing it from someone who was actually present. I do agree with you that some of what is on here is conterproductive, but in the absence of facts rumors run rampant. Do not restrict telling us the truth in fear of being labeled. Those who know you will understand and those who haven't taken the time tyo listen to the truth just don't matter. Thank you for your service to your country and your City.
Dave Emanuel March 05, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Alpha Dog response to Ned Lane's questions is available at http://bit.ly/AtghZJ
Gary Custar March 05, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Excerpts from a January 2010 newspaper article: SNELLVILLE -- City council members followed Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer's recommendation Monday to appoint Tony Powell as the new city attorney. Councilwoman Kelly Kautz was the only council member to vote against Powell's appointment, not because of a lack of confidence in his ability, but because she charged that city procedure was not followed. The councilwoman, an attorney herself, said that she did not know that Williams would not be re-appointed until Thursday. Kautz said Monday that the city should have solicited sealed bids for city attorney and not rushed to appoint a new one without following procedure. [ed.-A procedure Kautz did not follow when she recently appointed Oberman] Oberholtzer said that Powell's fees had been reviewed and "they seem reasonable." Powell took his seat alongside Oberholtzer immediately following the 5-1 vote approving the appointment.
Gary Custar March 05, 2012 at 02:24 PM
I posted the following above, but thought it got lost in the middle and should be put here. Excerpts from a January 2010 GDP newspaper article: SNELLVILLE -- City council members followed Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer's recommendation Monday to appoint Tony Powell as the new city attorney. Councilwoman Kelly Kautz was the only council member to vote against Powell's appointment, not because of a lack of confidence in his ability, but because she charged that city procedure was not followed. The councilwoman, an attorney herself, said that she did not know that Williams would not be re-appointed until Thursday. Kautz said Monday that the city should have solicited sealed bids for city attorney and not rushed to appoint a new one without following procedure. [ed.-A procedure Kautz did not follow when she recently appointed Oberman] Oberholtzer said that Powell's fees had been reviewed and "they seem reasonable." Powell took his seat alongside Oberholtzer immediately following the 5-1 vote approving the appointment.
Gail Lane March 05, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Thanks, Gary! I couldn't find it specifically addressed in my cursory search of the minutes.
Ned Lane March 05, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Thank you Tom, Gary, Dave, Joy. This was highly informative. My conclusion is that a brand new, inexperienced mayor moved too quickly, without getting City Council backing. I hope the Mayor has learned from this experience, and will take into account in the future that she needs 4 votes to advance her agenda. I appreciate the council standing their ground, the solution that was found, and that the Mayor and the Council are all doing their best in an often thankless job,
Gary Custar March 05, 2012 at 05:01 PM
De nada.
Joy L. Woodson March 05, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Thanks, Ned!
Dave Emanuel March 05, 2012 at 07:46 PM
In case you missed it above, Alpha Dog answers to Ned Lane's questions can be found at http://bit.ly/AtghZJ
Darla Dixon March 06, 2012 at 06:47 PM
I believe Snellville is strong and will make it through this.
Grant March 08, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Hilarious. Gary , thanks for that interesting tidbit . Well done . I think , though she is obviously painfully slow to understand , the eventually the Mayor might indeed "get it" and learn to actually work WITH council as opposed to intentionally and constantly instigating needless controversy in attempting to sidestep council in an attempt to push her agenda. I'm guessing there will be a LOT of 4 - 2 votes before that finally sinks in .
angie March 08, 2012 at 11:11 PM
No matter what Ms.Kautz does it's not Barbara making decisions. Give it up, Kelly won the election she is our Mayor. Make Snellville proud and stop acting like spoiled brats. She knows her role and whats required of her. She is doing a great job so far.

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