Last November Kelly Kautz, Snellville’s newly-elected mayor, appointed a new City Attorney to replace Tony Powell, who had served in that capacity for approximately two years. Mr. Powell has over 25 years of experience in municipal law (also called local government law) and was awarded the highest possible rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review. Naturally, the departure of such a highly respected attorney elicited numerous questions about the reasons for which he was dismissed.
The recent City Attorney “Not So Excellent Adventure” is politically charged, so I fully expect the following discourse to be greeted with antipathy in some quarters. The truth isn’t always pleasant, but neither is it interpreted the same by all parties involved. I can only present my perspective, so I urge anyone who disagrees with it to contact the mayor and request her interpretation.
I had heard rumblings that Mr. Powell would be replaced shortly after the election results were announced last November. Positive proof of his departure arrived at the November 14th Council meeting in the form of a new City Attorney, who was announced shortly after the swearing in of the new mayor and Council.
Subsequently, the Council learned that the mayor hadn’t actually fired Mr. Powell. She had asked him to serve as an assistant to the new City Attorney. That was a nice way of asking him to stick around long enough to get the new guy up to speed. Having been presented with an unworkable situation, (an attorney with 25+ years of municipal law experience “assisting” an attorney with absolutely no previous municipal law experience) Mr. Powell respectfully declined. He did, however, continue serving the City by concluding a number of open cases that had been initiated during his tenure.
There was absolutely no problem with Mr. Powell’s services. Although I never dealt with him as a City Council member, I did speak with him a number of times while I served on the Planning Commission. I always found him to be very knowledgeable, responsive and very willing to provide insight and guidance- many times without charge.
It is my belief that Mr. Powell’s replacement, Stuart Oberman, was hired strictly for political expediency. (If there’s another reason for replacing an experienced municipal attorney with one who has no prior municipal attorney experience, I’d like to hear it.) I also believe this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Oberman charged the city $760 for work he had done PRIOR to being appointed City Attorney. (The specific work was to do research and prepare a memo regarding Mayor Pro Tem. After several members of Council objected to those charges, he subsequently removed them from his bill.)
Making matters even more suspect, a number of other opinions submitted by Oberman were flawed, (that’s warmandfuzzyspeak for wrong) and appear to have been written with an eye towards what was desired, rather than towards proper legal definition. Many of these opinions are referenced in the e-mails that can be viewed at www.snellvilletoday.com .
In late February, it appeared that Snellville’s not-so-excellent City Attorney adventure was over. Oberman resigned and Kevin Tallant of Miles Patterson Hansford Tallant, LLC was appointed as the new City Attorney. He is a highly experienced municipal law attorney with an impressive resume, and from my brief conversation with him, a firm grasp of the reality of serving as a City Attorney. But in spite of the fact that Mr. Tallant was every-bit-as qualified, competent and ethical as his resume indicated, the City’s Adventures in City Attorney Land weren’t over, as you learn in “Adventures in City Attorney Land, Part Deux”.
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