Snellville Citizens Divided on City Controversy

More than dozen locals spoke about the recent actions by the council and mayor at the city council meeting Monday.

The Snellville City Council meeting Monday (Jan. 13) brought an overcrowded audience to the council chambers to witness and speak on the recent city controversy. 

The controversy comes from the mayor's actions over the last 10 days. Mayor Kelly Kautz had told City Manager Butch Sanders that he should stop working because she did not recognize his newly approved contract as valid, and she removed City Clerk Melisa Arnold from her position to be instead the city's purchasing agent. Kautz had authorized newcomer Phyllis Richardson to take Arnold's place. 

During Monday's meeting, a resolution was passed 5-1 confirming Arnold as the city clerk and Sanders as the city manager. Kautz voted against it. 

See also: Snellville Council Passes Resolution Confirming Sanders as City Manager, Arnold as City Clerk

This division of council and mayor made the crowded room a divided one, almost literally down the middle. One side applauded and agreed with the mayor, while the other sided with the council.

And more than a dozen locals spoke for an hour about the rift between the officials. 

"Mayor Kautz, your actions are hurting the city in numerous ways," said resident Sharon Hetherington. 

"I can bring 250 high schoolers together and get them to work together," said Kelly Buck, a religious instructor downtown. "How many of you are there? Sit down in a room and work it out." 

"In the future years, when people are talking about the mayor, Kelly Kautz, in Snellville all they're going to remember is turmoil and strife," said Marilyn Swinney. "They're not going to remember the good. That's the way people are. And you don't want that as a legacy, do you?"

"I'm appalled at what goes on here," said Barbara Ralston, a 29-year resident of the city. "I think there's a great deal that needs to happen here and I think that every single of one of you standing up here really needs to think about if it's possible to get along," Ralston continued. "I would think that, for the good of this community, that it would be very important for you to find a way to do this." 

Former Councilman Tod Warner actually applauded the council's decorum because of the lack of name-calling. But he still urged the council to do better. "Please, communicate to one another, and communicate with us," he said. 

Some of the evening's discussion was about diversity, too. Pastor Elijah Collins Jr. of New Jerusalem Baptist Church said his congregation has seen many African-American candidates, such as Richardson, shot down for city positions "without any explanation at all."  

"If we're going to move forward, and if we're going to talk about unity in the community, you cannot continue to look like what's behind me where everybody's on one side and everybody's on the other side," said Collins. "We've got to come together."

Melvin Everson, who was the first black Snellville councilman and also represented Snellville in the state House of Representatives, spoke of the need for respect for the mayor and council. 

"It pains me. I worked hard to bring unity to this city," he said. "Let's leave out of here tonight resolved that Snellville is better than this. Snellville is larger than this. ... Let's make Snellville a city where everyone is welcome and proud to be called somebody."
Josh January 14, 2014 at 07:41 AM
Still, it is like I said last night, most of this pettiness could have been avoided because doing something just because you think you can is a terrible reason to do anything. I am just embarrassed that the leading headline on Fox 5 last night was "City at War". Now tell me Mayor and Council, is that what you want everyone to hear about Snellville?
Phillip S Wallace January 14, 2014 at 07:45 AM
Mr. Stepp, that is unfortunate if true and confirms my worst fears. If he did as you say then I wish Mr. Collins joy in whatever political powerbase be manages to eventually help build--and that, in my mind, is the goal, the only goal of so many actions the last few years--building a political powerbase less about Snellville and more about turning the county, state, and Congressional district a certain way politically, done by some folks mainly for the power and opportunity it will bring them , and by other folks convinced of their unchallengeable righteousness, thinking it a sin and mark of bad character to vote against them. Well, sorry, count me out. As I am not a Republican per se, neither would I be a Democrat.
Nathan Horton January 14, 2014 at 09:10 AM
Moments after Pastor Collins of New Jerusalem baptist church spoke about diversity and respect, after he spoke about the perceived disrespect shown to him at an unannounced swearing in of an illegally appointed clerk, the pastor organized one of the most disrespectful displays I have ever seen at a city council meeting. After he spoke for several minutes about unity in the community, about the legacy of Dr. ML King, and about the need for respect, he turned to the audience, nearly half of which seem to be his parishioners, and rose his hands. The members of his church then all stood and and noisily left the meeting, even while Former councilman and Former state Rep for Snellville Melvin Everson was speaking. Mr. Everson is currently the Executive Director of the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity, but was previously a member of the Snellville City Council, in fact, he was the first African American elected to the Council. However, what Mr. Everson had to say did not fit with the clear agenda set out by Pastor Collins. While the pastor was trying to color everything along racial lines that simply do not exist in this battle, Mr. Everson spoke eloquently urging the council to find ways to mend the divide through the city. Unfortunately, many of those who needed to hear his words the most were rudely and disrespectfully leaving the meeting and making quite a scene while doing so, even preventing many from being able to hear Mr. Eversons remarks. One member of Pastor Collins' group even threatened me when he was leaving and asked if i "Would like to take this outside". I guess when you can't have what you want, when your religious leader encourages mass disrespect, and the rule of law is not on your side, the only option left for you is violence. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed. The bully was escorted from the room, and the public comments continued.
Phillip S Wallace January 14, 2014 at 09:38 AM
It is, quite simply, the weaponization of race to achieve power, playing on the good intentions of others and visiting the sins of the past on the descendents so that they may pay the price for their forefathers, though having committed no crime themselves. I predicted in another posting last week that while the council appeared to have untrammeled ability to simply remove Ms. Richardson, that such weaponized race charges would stay their hand. I wish Mr. Collins the best, as he does what is right in his own eyes, but sometimes politics is just politics, and nothing greater.
Michelle McGill Couch January 14, 2014 at 10:45 AM
It may be best for the Pastor and his followers to stay the course of worshiping within their own chapel, and exit the political arena that they now find themselves at the hands of a runaway mayor. Just saying.
Rob Smith January 14, 2014 at 11:28 AM
Pastor Collins is a main player in Mayor Kautz's plans to disrupt and embarrass the city. His disrespectful actions last night were planned to take attention away from the fact that Kautz is acting illegally. She has been shot down in court so now Kautz and Collins are trying to use race as a way for Kautz to do what she wants even if it is a violation of the charter. This is race baiting and planned thuggery. Reverand Collins should be ashamed of his actions and so should the people in his church.
David Brown January 14, 2014 at 01:20 PM
I have met Pastor Collins. I find him to be a Godly man and a man of integrity. Prior to becoming Pastor of New Jerusalem, he happened to have served as the Youth and Children's Pastor at Melvin Everson's church, Salem Missionary Baptist Church. David (Board of Appeals) Brown=)
Brenda Lee January 14, 2014 at 02:25 PM
David (BOA), I would be interested in your thoughts after you compare Rev Collins comments to Melvin Everson's comments. Hopefully the video will be up soon. PS: Thank you. ;)
Ophelia Liburd January 14, 2014 at 03:07 PM
"He permitted no one to do them wrong; Yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes, Saying, Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm." Let us not make this about Pastor Elijah Collins - look at the issue at heart. The city is indeed divided; Black folks cannot receive a fair nomination; the Mayor and Councilmen are at war. Pastor Collins had the courage to stand up for his people - Black people (be mindful that the young lady whom the Mayor nominated for City Clerk is one of his members). What is so wrong with that? Is there any truth to the words which he spoke? Is it disrespectful that they aborted the meeting before it was over? The Pastor is not a violent or disrespectful person. However, his action may have been one to show what it feels like to be disrespected because that is what they received from the good people at City Hall on last Friday. When we are going to disrespect we must always ask ourselves - "if the shoe was on the other foot, would I want to be disrespected?" My point is, do not focus on the man of God, but rather we should pray for our dear City and ask God to rebuild the areas that have fallen apart.
Chris January 14, 2014 at 04:04 PM
But what Pastor Collins did was nothing more than race bait the entire situation. When you stand up and walk out, it is a sign of disrespect. He may have felt that what happened on Friday was disrespectful, but Jesus does say to turn the other cheek. And my biggest question is, was the city clerk position posted anywhere? If not, was Mrs. Richardson chosen by the mayor based on her race and/or having a friendship with the mayor? By doing that, the mayor ensured people would make this a race issue when it really wasn't. Also, if you go to the Post's website and you'll see her attorney saying she is waiting to fulfill her role and collect her salary. That just seems fishy to me that the salary portion was mentioned and that she had an attorney so quickly.
Brenda Lee January 14, 2014 at 04:50 PM
Ms. Liburd, according to the Snellville City Charter, which anyone can access and read, Kautz DID NOT have the authority to do what she tried to do WITHOUT the consent of council. The council consist of five other citizens who were also duly elected by Snellville voters. Even if the position of City Clerk had been vacant, there are still policies and procedures in place for filling that vacancy, which Kautz would have had to follow. Perhaps you do not realize that Rev. Collins actions last night were disrespectful to the speaker who was at the podium making his comments and the citizens of Snellville. I did not realize that there was a "his people" I thought the goal was for Snellville to include "all people".
Brenda Lee January 14, 2014 at 04:54 PM
Ms. Liburd, here is the link to the Snellville City Charter and the Code of Ordinances. It is very easy to navigate and search. If you search Mayor, you fill find all references to the position of mayor and/or the corresponding responsibilites. You can also search City Clerk. http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=13356
Phillip S Wallace January 14, 2014 at 05:06 PM
I am going to point out that since discussion last night apparently revolved around skin color of city employees vice current competencies or lack thereof, I can only conclude that in this particular case there are those who are quite happy to achieve whatever diversity goals they deem worthy by shoving current satisfactory occupants out the door in order to make room--because regardless if the clerkship is eventually legally viewed as a "vacancy" or not, it wasn't actually vacant, and apparently no one was saying the current occupant was doing a bad job, just that she was not the "right" color, and Ms. Robertson is. But perhaps I have misunderstood what was said.
Ophelia Liburd January 14, 2014 at 05:12 PM
Ms. Lee, I am not condoning the fact that what the Mayor did was wrong or that she did not adhere to city ordinances. Yes, what the Pastor did may have been disrespectful to the speaker and the community at large. However, aren't these the same people who disrespected them last week? "Do unto others as you'll have them do unto you." When I made reference to "his people"...it simple meant Black people. No matter which way it's looked at, he is a Black man and he was trying to make some points along racial issues. Hence, the "his people." When all people can work together then it will be to the good to all. The issue with how the Mayor handled things is far bigger than what we can comprehend - the entire body of mayor and councilmen need prayer!!!
Brenda Lee January 14, 2014 at 05:50 PM
IMHO, if the genuine goal is to move Snellville forward then if Rev. Collins had issue with one, two or three people who were at City Hall last week, the appropriate action would have been for Rev. Collins, Ms Richardson and the two or three others to speak to that person(s) privately. As it turned out everyone in attendance last night and the reputation of the city was tarnished by the actions of the most vocal, which in this case was Kelly Kautz and Rev. Collins. For the most part, the 10-15 other people who spoke were passionate but civil. At this point, I don't know what to pray except that wisdom prevail. The very human part of me wants to yank a knot (southern term) in a few people and color is not a determining factor. The spiritual part of me knows that God is in control and what I need to do is seek and listen to his guidance.
hazybuck January 14, 2014 at 06:44 PM
Ms. Liburd, in your comments, you reference 'his people' as 'Black people.' I don't believe race was brought into this until either Reverend Collins or possibly Ms. Richardson's attorney tabled the matter - I could be wrong. Please site articles if I am. But know that this is not a black or white thing, it's a simple matter of the fact that Mayor Kautz offered Ms. Richardson a position that wasn't vacant, and there's not money in the budget, or justification, to have two people doing the same job! Therefore, if Ms. Richardson has issue with this, she has issue with Kelly Kautz - not the City of Snellville or the City Council. The City of Snellville staff and the City Council members are simply enforcing the charter and standing up for the rights of a current employee - as I feel certain you would expect them to do for YOU if you were an employee of the city, doing a very good job (in Mayor Kautz' words), who suddenly found themselves in this situation. By the by, my pastor is color blind - ALL of His people are His people. He couldn't care less if they're black, white, yellow, orange, or green. They're all His.
Laurice Herzog January 14, 2014 at 10:04 PM
I have been following all this drama via the posts from the Patch and the comments posted by the readers. When I saw Ms. Richardson's name, the only thing that came to my head was that the name seemed familiar, and I think she had run for office. That's it. I didn't think, "Oh that's a black woman." That didn't cross my mind when all the other posts mentioned that the Mayor made the nomination improperly. The part of the issue that came to the top of my priority list was the "improperly" part, not that the nominee was black. In fact, when I saw all the posts talking about race issues, at first I was confused and wondered, "When the heck did this become a race issue?" As hazybuck states above, "...this is not a black or white thing, it's a simple matter of the fact that Mayor Kautz offered Ms. Richardson a position that wasn't vacant". Period. End of story. Whether Ms. Richardson is black or white makes no difference. The Mayor was out of line and made a nomination without cause or authority. How much more destruction does the Mayor have to cause before the word impeachment is on everyone's tongues?
David Brown January 15, 2014 at 09:05 AM
Again, I really wish we could have a public discussion on race in Snellville. One of the things that Black residents of Snellville could then explain is why certain things get under our skin, when those same things apparently don't get under the skin of white residents of Snellville. God bless.=)
Michelle McGill Couch January 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM
Wrong is wrong is wrong. Law is law is law. Qualified is qualified is qualified. ... No matter the color of our skin! I'm white - I've applied for several jobs in Snellville. I have never even been called for an interview. GET OVER IT!
Arnold Darsey January 15, 2014 at 02:22 PM
The foundation for discussion about diversity, which doesn't need discussion in the first place, because diversity already exists in Snellville and in my very neighborhood. It needs to start with a personal apology in front of the Council for the exodus of his constituents while another well spoken, educated and local leader had, what I thought, some very healing words that were only heard by those who were respectful of that person.
David Brown January 15, 2014 at 03:25 PM
Michelle, be encouraged. You could always apply for a seat on a City of Snellville board or commission. Those 43 seats are currently occupied by only four of my folks of the chocolate persuasion, to my knowledge.=)
Michelle McGill Couch January 15, 2014 at 06:46 PM
Amen Mr. Darsey!!! Thanks for the encouragement Mr. Brown. For years I served on the Snellville Days Committee and my company provided the official event guide. I have assisted with several projects in the city in the past and some of the council member campaigns. I have a true love for Snellville, and I even used to live there. If times were better - I would move back there, but I really don't see that happening given my circumstances. I truly do wish the very best for the city. Since I moved to GA in 1990 I have lived in either Snellville, Loganville or Grayson. Additionally, since my former newspaper (Tri-City Times) covered these three cities - I have always considered all three my home. Snellville has always been my favorite.
Kenneth Stepp January 16, 2014 at 09:13 AM
This may well be the silliest thread I have seen on Patch to date.


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