Tuesday, December 18, 2012
SNELLVILLE -- No, it isn't deja vu all over again.
Snellville's mayor has once again dismissed the city attorney, 13 months after Tony Powell lost the job the first time.
But after a lengthy letter questioning his professionalism, Powell is not taking the firing lightly.
In fact, Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts says the city council does not believe the mayor has the power to fire the city attorney at all, causing another battle over the position months after the city council refused to pay the mayor's pick for the job.
"I can confirm that I have appointed Cruser & Mitchell as the new interim city attorney. It is common practice for the mayor to make appointments at the end/beginning of each calendar year," Mayor Kelly Kautz said in an email. "Several factors influenced my decision. 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."
But in a letter to Powell about the dismissal, Kautz said the city attorney has pushed for lawsuits instead of giving opinions on city matters and did not learn about a suit filed against ethics watchdog George Anderson until reading about it in the Daily Post.
Kautz declined to discuss the letter, saying Powell has threatened a defamation suit.
Powell did not return a phone call and email seeking comment Tuesday.
Witts said council members who back Powell believe the mayor does not have the power to remove him from office without a vote, and that cannot happen until the city council meets again Jan. 14.
"He's a capable attorney. He hasn't done anything wrong," Witts said, adding that the dismissal letter had "an awful lot of speculations, half-truths and inneundos."
He denied Kautz's accusations that four members of the city council met in violation of the Open Records Act. In fact, Kautz attended a meeting called by three councilman after she refused to call for it. Another vote she questioned occurred after she left an open meeting early, he said.
The city has struggled to keep an attorney over the past year, since Powell left in November 2011. The Lawrenceville councilman returned in April, after the council refused to approve payments to another Kautz pick and another attorney served a short tenure.
Kautz said she would begin taking resumes and appoint a permanent city attorney in the new year.