Snellville Mayor, Council Disagree on Who's the City Clerk

Kelly Kautz sent out a press release saying that Phyllis Richardson will replace current City Clerk Melisa Arnold. The council says they had no knowledge of this action.

Editor's note: This article was originally posted Jan. 10, 2014.

Snellville Councilman Bobby Howard spoke to Snellville Patch about the mayor appointing a new city clerk.

"The opinion of the majority of the Snellville City Council is that Melisa Arnold continues to be our city clerk, much like we felt Butch Sanders was our city manager," said Howard.

He continued: "The press release [the mayor sent] is not from the city of Snellville," he continued. "That is what she and she alone believes. That is not represented by the city of Snellville nor its leadership. The safest thing to say is Melisa Arnold is the city clerk of Snellville."

Mayor Kelly Kautz gave the following response to the controversy on the Snellville Patch Facebook page:

"This is not a controversy. The City Clerk appointment is an appointment that is made by the Mayor at the beginning of each year. Mrs. Richardson will be an asset to our City."


Original story, posted at 5:50 p.m.:

Just a week after Mayor Kelly Kautz told the city manager to "cease" working, more drama is brewing in Snellville.

Kautz sent out a press release Friday afternoon (Jan. 10) saying that she has appointed a new city clerk. According to the release, Phyllis Richardson will be replacing current City Clerk Melisa Arnold, who will continue her employment with Snellville as the city's purchasing agent. Arnold previously held the purchasing agent position before taking the city clerk's job.

Kautz said she made the appointment and administered the oath of office for Richardson on Friday.

Councilman Bobby Howard told Snellville Patch that she appointed Richardson without the knowledge of the city council or city manager, however.

According to the release, Richardson is a Gwinnett County resident who has many years of government and political experience. She has served as the executive assistant for the chairman of the Miami Dade County Commission in Florida, the deputy clerk for the Miami Dade County Board of Commissioners, the executive assistant to a city of Miami commissioner and the office manager for the Broward County Bar Association.

She also has worked as a community organizer and held leadership roles in several political campaigns. She has done volunteer work with Veterans Empowerment Organization of Georgia Inc. and LifeLink of Georgia.

The release does not state if Richardson previously worked for the city.
Phillip S Wallace January 11, 2014 at 06:14 AM
Here is one possible interpertation of this action (though not the only one, and perhaps not the right one, but a possible interpertation nonetheless)--the Mayor has shoved aside a long-serving city employee to install a political activist.
SJ Pitts January 11, 2014 at 06:30 AM
Perhaps the decent people of Snellville will now recognize the price of not voting. This is what you get when you allow the most uninformed of a city to elect your mayor. She's a disgrace, and many of us saw what we were going to get. Unfortunately, as in the national elections, the the least qualified voters elected the least qualified candidate.
Kenneth Stepp January 11, 2014 at 06:56 AM
The xity attorney, then the city manager, and now this......
Phillip S Wallace January 11, 2014 at 06:58 AM
One more observation--I can buy the argument that the Charter giving the mayor sole appointment authority overrides the ordinance giving it to Mayor and Council. However, if the one-year term in the ordinance stands, then one could only suppose the removal clause of the ordinance would too--because it does not seem to contradict anything in the Charter. Thus, the Mayor can perhaps solely appoint, but I see nothing stopping a 5-1 vote next council meeting for removal based on non-consultation on appointment. What stops it will be the eventual weaponization of such vote by the Kautz faction as a racial matter, and that is the America we live in.
Matt Czarick January 11, 2014 at 07:28 AM
I just don't see how you can appoint the city clerk, who is also the city treasurer without council approval. Overseeing a $15,000,000+ budget should not be taken lightly. If I understand correctly the mayor gave the city council no advanced warning that she was going to do this. It is actions like this that creates the divide and controversy that she claims to be against. Whether or not she can hire at will will most likely, unfortunately, will be resolved in court. And once again, she has put another citizen in an awkward position to say the least.
Phillip S Wallace January 11, 2014 at 08:22 AM
Matt, one simple explanation, among others, for the appointment is that the Mayor needs someone who will follow her lead on the matter of cutting Mr. Sander's checks. However, I admit I am not privvy to details on how the city works. I also do not know if this was a pre-planned campaign on the part of the Kautz faction to nullify the effects of the recent election to the greatest extent (or to develop talking points for the next election), possible with further moves to be expected, or if it is all ad hoc.
Phillip S Wallace January 11, 2014 at 08:59 AM
And not to do stream of consciousness...but... I just looked at the City Manager portions of the ordinance. Unless I missed something somewhere, which I could have, there is no explicit term limit as there is for the Clerk, and since there is one for the clerk, I think a good argument can be made that if those who wrote charter and ordinance had wished to link the City Manager's term to a contract, they could have--since they did put in a term for the Clerk. Thus, by this argument, the Manager serves until removed by four votes, and the contract only sets pay and conditions of employment for someone already confirmed, and therefore I fail to see how the Mayor can not authorize payments for contracts legally enacted (even if she disagrees with them)--for to do so would give her a veto power, and the Charter in that respect seems to only make her a voting member of a legislature, not a President with a veto (which, with five votes, could be overriden anyway). Thus, if the contract is valid, the Mayor must execute it, and the City Clerk must disberse, and I, in my legal naivete, cannot fathom why both should not be personally liable and removed if they do not do so.
Michelle McGill Couch January 11, 2014 at 09:54 AM
The check signing for the city manager's next pay check did come to my mind. I know Melissa to be of exceptional professionalism and integrity. She would not be swayed into doing something wrong by the mayor.
TOWG January 11, 2014 at 10:13 AM
When will the Mayors term be over?
Laurice Herzog January 11, 2014 at 11:12 AM
Good question, TOWG, when will the Mayor's term be over and what is required to begin impeachment proceedings. It appears that almost every action she's taken as Mayor has been against the rules and strictly for her own selfish, personal benefit. She does not care about Snellville and does not strive for teamwork and cohesion but rather destruction and chaos. She does everything at her will and not for the will of the people.
Carolyn January 11, 2014 at 12:43 PM
omg, get it together! Sounds like the Atl. City gov't in action here!
Pat Binger January 11, 2014 at 01:09 PM
haha...someone started a countdown clock on FB to countdown to when the polls open in 2015. https://apps.facebook.com/notlongnow/countdown.php?id=f382865fd76efee5c8b4b55ab55f27fa
Ron Schad January 11, 2014 at 02:36 PM
I just found the following excerpt on the City of Snellville website. Snellville, Georgia Where Everbody's Proud to Be Somebody! City Government 'The City of Snellville operates under a Council-Manager form of government. The City Manager is appointed by the Council and works with them on policy creation and then manages staff concerning implementation. Comparing this form of government to a private business, the Mayor acts as Chairman of the Board and the City Council acts as the Board of Directors. The City Manager under the direction of the City Council manages the day-to-day functions of the City.' Somebody should start a lottery for guessing the exact day and hour the Mayor will appoint or unappoint another victim of circumstance, or come up with another destructive action that inhibits the harmony of our cities day to day operation. You will notice I did not mention the need to indicate a month for winning the lottery as this month is still young. I am still looking for somebody to give my donation for the more expedient removal of the current Mayor and not have to wait for another 2 years of petty antics.
Brenda Lee January 11, 2014 at 06:44 PM
Per the Snellville City Charter, the mayor is a nothing more than figurehead (Websters: a person who is called the head or chief of something but who has no real power). The power is in the council as a whole. She is 1/6 th of a whole. Section 2.29. - Powers and duties of mayor; city's chief executive officer. The mayor shall: (1) Preside at all meetings of the city council; (2) Be the head of the city for the purpose of service of process and for ceremonial purposes and be the official spokesperson for the city and the chief advocate of policy; (3) Have the power to administer oaths and to take affidavits; (4) Sign as a matter of course on behalf of the city all written and approved contracts, ordinances, and other instruments executed by the city which by law are required to be in writing; (5) Vote on matters before the city council and be counted toward a quorum as any other councilmember; (6) Fulfill such other executive and administrative duties as the city council shall by ordinance establish; and (7) Perform such other duties as may be required by law, this Charter, or by ordinance. Municode - http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=13356 library.municode.com CodeBank is a permanent repository for every codified version of an online code. Each time the online code is updated, the previous version is archived in the CodeBank repository.
Phillip S Wallace January 12, 2014 at 08:33 AM
Now is as good a time as any to revisit the Mayor Pro Tem issue from two years ago, because it no longer seems an outlier. I have not searched the entire charter or ordinance for any countervailing clauses, but here is the appropriate section of the charter: "Section 2.28. - Mayor pro tempore. By a majority vote, the city council shall elect a councilmember to serve as mayor pro tempore. The mayor pro tempore shall assume the duties and powers of the mayor during the mayor's disability or absence. Any such disability or absence shall be declared by a majority vote of the city council. The mayor pro tempore shall sign all contracts and ordinances in which the mayor has a disqualifying financial interest as provided in section 2.14 of this Charter."...and from the ordinance--"Sec. 2-38. - Vice-chairman. (a) The city council shall select a mayor pro tem from the council members at the beginning of each calendar year who shall serve as the vice-chairman. The vice-chairman shall fulfill the duties of the chairman if the chairman is not in attendance." ...Well, I can certainly see how "By a majority vote, city council shall elect" could get interpreted as "Mayor unilaterally appoints". Easy mistake to make. Lord knows the President of the United States picks the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate, and those bodies just accept it, so I could understand how there could be some confusion on the local level.
Kenneth Stepp January 12, 2014 at 01:36 PM
It's time for a vote then Phillip.
Sharon Hetherington January 12, 2014 at 03:05 PM
Who is going to pay the City Clerk's salary? I don't want to, do you? Kautz has reduced Ms. Arnold's work load without reducing her salary or benefits. There is not a Purchasing Agent salary in the budget. So, where is the $$ for our new, inexperienced City Clerk coming from? If Ms. Arnold has been successfully fulfilling both positons, does this mean that each is a part-time job? Give me one good reason why we should pay.
Brenda Lee January 12, 2014 at 03:41 PM
Food for thought. Kautz recently closed her law practice and is apparently spending more time at City Hall. Is it possible that this little coup d'etat was an attempt to create a personal secretary position who is solely answerable to the mayor at the expense of the citizens of Snellville? Both Kautz and former city councilman, Mike Sabbagh, seem to be going out of their way to praise Ms. Arnold and make us believe their goal was to reduce her workload. I say Bull Hockey!
Kenneth Stepp January 13, 2014 at 11:10 AM
I'm with you Brenda. Kautz always has a motive cooked up in secret.
Ted Dexter January 14, 2014 at 12:07 AM
Tedd- After tonights specticle at the City Council meeting it is obvious that those who voted for Ms.Kautz for mayor blew it. This young lady is definitely out of control. As Tom Witts said, there is nothing worse than a racist than a race baiter. Sadly I believe that true of Ms. Kautz. I dont care what color a city employee may be,as long as they are qualified for the position for which they have applied and "due process" according to the law is followed. Snellville has a long history of excellent race relations and with the black population growing in the city its' imperative we have an honest and fair city Govt. Something unfortunately Ms.Kautz has not provided to citizens of Snellville. Ms.Kautz you are a disgrace. When you go to bed tonight and you are in the dark and quiet solitude of your bedroom,with only your heatbeat and your thoughts, I would love to think you might realize the error of your ways and do the right thing. Resign.
Michelle McGill Couch January 14, 2014 at 12:17 AM
This evening's meeting was gut wrenching. It is with a heavy heart, for a city I love, that I lay my head down to sleep. Praying for the city, its staff, its leaders and it citizens this evening.
Kenneth Stepp January 14, 2014 at 06:50 AM
The Left, and make no mistake, Kautz is a Leftie, always divide by race, financial, and ideals. This because they can't freely debate their ideas. So, division is all they have. The fact that a "pastor" would play a role in this is shameful. But, headlines are hard to say no to for some.
David Brown January 14, 2014 at 08:35 AM
As I have said a couple of other times, Snellville would benefit from having a public discussion on race in Snellville. Several comments on this page make that clear to me. I too am praying for my town that I have dedicated 17 years to.
Phillip S Wallace January 14, 2014 at 08:42 AM
Mr. Brown, here's your discussion: weaponizing race, using it for tactical advantage, is a good way to make good people leave. Wouldn't you agree?
Phillip S Wallace January 14, 2014 at 08:57 AM
Mr. Brown, as an addendum--I do believe if you would go and call up just about any political science department, they would gladly confirm for you that it is not uncommon for legislatures, at all levels, to be very upset when they are not consulted on appointments, much less if they think have a confirmation power. If my memory serves, the 18th century English Parliament and colonial assemblies used to go nuts over stuff like this (and would usually defund the position as a result). And today in the Senate individual Senators have sort of a informal pocket veto on federal judicial appointments. Please let me know if I am in the wrong. Absent that, it is my view that what some attempt to attribute to race (for tactical advantage) is simply politics.
Phillip S Wallace January 14, 2014 at 09:09 AM
And Mr. Brown--just to head you off at the pass: just as I would not assume a black guy murdering three people and fleeing to Houston is representative of anyone but himself, let us please apply the same standards on any issue dear to your heart. Anecdote is not data, and sometime things in politics are just politics, and nothing greater.
Matt Czarick January 14, 2014 at 10:24 AM
For what it is worth I thought David Brown made some very good points last night during the public comments section. I agree that some diversity is needed, but there is a right way and a wrong way to achieve that. It is usually not what you say, but how you say it. I think David echoed the comments by many in attendance last night, but his delivery was so much more appealing and not accusatory. Mr. Brown you seemed to be very level headed and I think you "get it". I strongly encourage you to get to know all of the councilmembers, become more involved in this city that I can tell you so deeply love. I think you probably have a lot to offer.
Michelle McGill Couch January 14, 2014 at 10:50 AM
I agree completely Matt. When someone can present their view points in a calm and collective manner, listening is easy. However, when someone presents themselves with hostility - I cannot even hear what they are saying over the anger they are portraying. The Army/federal employee that spoke (yelled) for 10 minutes - I didnt' hear a word she said. I couldn't even take her seriously. I wanted to, but she discredited herself with her attitude.
Brenda Lee January 14, 2014 at 12:50 PM
Just a point of clarifiction. The David Brown posting on here is not the same David Brown that spoke at the council meeting last night. The David Brown posting here is a long time and respected member of the Snellville Zoning Board of Appeals. Based on what I heard last night, the other David Brown is also a long time and respected member of the Brookwood section of Snellville. That said, I'm thinking we need some way to distinquish between the two gentlemen. ;)
Brenda Lee January 14, 2014 at 12:51 PM


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