Changing the Charter

I voted in favor of changing the charter simply because it’s the right thing to do. Some people claim that this change is politically motivated. I can assure you for me it was not. It was necessity motivated. During the past three months, I have asked the interim City Attorney numerous questions that he was either unwilling or unable to answer. It’s extremely difficult to serve the best interests of the citizens of our city when questions regarding the legal aspects of issues are either unanswered, or answered incorrectly. I believe a review of my e-mail correspondence, which has been released through an open records request, will shed additional light on these issues.

The City Attorney’s job is to handle the city’s legal business and provide legal advice and insight to all members of the Council. Consequently, I believe all members of Council should be involved in the selection process, because all members of Council will be working with the City Attorney. By relying on a consensus of opinions, rather than the opinion of a single person, (regardless of who that person is) there is a much higher probability that the relationships between the attorney and individual Council members will be much more productive.

Another consideration is the fact that in 2005, (in what I believe was clearly a political maneuver) the Council voted to make a Home Rule change (to section 3.12) to the charter. That change required Council approval of the appointment of the City Attorney. In 2010, then City Attorney Tony Powell advised the Council that the 2005 charter change was illegal because it was not approved by the state legislature (legislature approval is required of any Home Rule change that alters the powers of the mayor or Council members). On July 12, 2010, the Council voted 4-2 to amend section 3.12 of the Charter so that it conformed with the language of the 2001 version. At that time, both Kelly Kautz and Mike Sabbagh voted against the change, which means they were in favor of maintaining the requirement that Council approval was a requirement for appointment of the city Attorney.

This council is obviously divided, and I believe we need to do everything possible to mend that division. I had conversations with both Mayor Kautz and Councilman Sabbagh in hopes of getting some positive movement in that direction. I was encouraged by both conversations, and although we didn’t discuss the Charter change in detail, I believe both Ms. Kautz and Mr. Sabbagh are convinced the vote in favor was a political maneuver. I can assure you it was not. But Charter changes and the reasons for them aside, Ms. Kautz has appointed a new City Attorney who I believe will do an outstanding job in representing the best interests of our citizens. And that’s all I really want.

For more “Council Confidentials”, click the links below

Payment Predicament

Adventures in City Attorney Land

3 Comments

  1. Upon further reflection, it strikes me that it’s irrelevant whether or not the present or any previous charter changes were politically motivated.Involving the entire Council in the selection of the City Attorney serves the best interests of the citizens. Conversely, allowing a single person to select the City Attorney serves the best interests of that person.

  2. I have completed my research and have found that every city in Gwinnett County that has their Charter either published on their website or on municode.org selects their City Attorney by confirmation of the council. We are only changing our charter to reflect the same procedure as outlined in the Charters of the other Cities in Gwinnett County. I don’t believe that this is as pressing an issue at this point because the City Attorney who begins his tenure next Monday appears to be very qualified and will give the Mayor and Council the legal advice that is necessary to properly run our City, That is all that the Council has ever requested.
    This change will, however, prevent a repeat of what the Council, the City, and the Citizens have gone through this last 4 months. I believe we should learn from our mistakes and for that reason alone proceed with the Charter Change passed last week.

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