Mayor Kautz takes council to court in Snellville fracas

Author: Camie Young, Gwinnett Daily Post

With members of the City Council standing in her way on issues such as replacing the city manager and city clerk, Snellville Mayor Kelly Kautz asked a judge Friday to force them to “allow her do her job.”

In a lawsuit filed in Gwinnett Superior Court, Kautz asked for a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against all five members of the city council, as well as acting City Manager Butch Sanders and City Clerk Melisa Arnold.

The suit claims the council members have been engaging in illegal meetings and continuing to use Kautz’s signature on city documents without her authority.

On Jan. 13, the city council voted to officially recognize Sanders and Arnold in their roles, after Kautz sought to remove them earlier in the month. The action also stripped Kautz of some of her signatory powers and set up the possibility of removing more, including the mayor’s pay.

“Mayor Kautz serves as an elected official who has sworn lawful obligations and responsibilities. The actions of the members of City Council and the acting city manager and acting city clerk have continued to interfere with her ability to carry out those obligations,” said Phyllis Miller, who along with Zahra Karinshak represents Kautz in the suit. “We need some emergency relief because these actions are continuing and they continue to endanger the city itself as well as the citizens. We have people signing contracts and issuing checks with no authority,”

A hearing has not been scheduled in the case, but the attorneys said one could come as early as next week.

Miller, who formerly served as a state representative for Snellville, said the suit was filed in part to help present the mayor’s case to the public.

“Members of the city council are very good at spinning the facts, and we are hoping that the public, once they see the facts as we’ve alleged and see what the actual law is that applies, will understand that Mayor Kautz is doing her job and doing it lawfully,” Miller said. “I’ve had friends who have been saying negative things about the mayor because they don’t understand what is actually going on and what the actual facts are, so we’re hoping that this being aired in a courtroom will once and for all resolve these issues that are of tremendous importance to the citizens of Snellville.”

Kautz did not come to the courthouse to file the paperwork but said later: “There has been a great deal of misinformation circulating about recent events in our city. I am confident that when people see the real facts and understand the actual applicable laws, they will see that I am doing the right thing. What has been happening in our city especially in the last few weeks is not fair to the position of Mayor nor to the citizens who vote for the position. I care about the city of Snellville, and I will continue working hard to look out for all of our citizens.”

A city spokesman attended the filing, but declined to comment.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts, who is named in the suit, along with Councilmembers Barbara Bender, Dave Emanuel, Bobby Howard and Diane Krause, said the council has only acted to keep Kautz from unlawfully removing city personnel, including the city attorney, who is the subject of another lawsuit filed last year.

“This is just another Friday folly,” Witts said, referring to Kautz’s attempt to remove Sanders Jan. 3 and her appointment of a new city clerk Jan. 10. “The five of us are dedicated to do the city’s business … to make sure the services are delivered.

“This is just a diversion that the city doesn’t need,” Witts said, adding that he is preparing for Monday’s council meeting and a retreat next weekend where the council will discuss future goals. “We’re not going to let this stop us from doing what’s right.”