As soon as he was sworn in Monday night, the new mayor of Snellville set the reset button.
Hours after Snellville’s city clerk held a rally in front of city hall to support a lawsuit she filed against the now-mayor, city manager and members of council, Mayor Tom Witts relieved the clerk of her duties.
He also reappointed Tony Powell as city attorney. Powell had been fired by the previous mayor, and a disagreement about whether then-mayor Kelly Kautz had the authority to fire Powell reached the state supreme court. This summer, the court ruled in Kautz’s favor.
But with a new administration comes new leadership. And, sometimes, old faces.
“Tony Powell has been the county attorney off and on for five years,” Witts said Tuesday. “I want to bring him back. We like him. He does a good job for us.”
Kautz said in June that she had questioned Powell’s billing, his relationships with some members of council and whether it was a conflict of interest for him to also serve as a city councilman in Lawrenceville.
But this week, she wasn’t surprised that Powell had been brought back.
“He is the mayor now,” Kautz said. “I’m not going to try to second-guess him or judge what he is doing.”
Still, Kautz said, she was surprised that Witts had decided to replace Phyllis Moreland-Richardson as city clerk. She was qualified for the job, Kautz said, and was treated unfairly.
“There was a lack of respect shown to her,” she said.
Kautz said Moreland-Richardson was criticized unnecessarily for typos in city minutes and some council members refused to shake her hand. At a Monday rally, she and others said that council members refused to let her do her job, and cut her pay and tried to move the location of her office.
Moreland-Richardson had filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 21 alleging that council members and Snellville’s city manager prevented her from accessing the tools she needed to do her job.
Neither Moreland-Richardson nor her attorney could be reached for comment, but Kautz said she didn’t think the firing was “professional or courteous.”
“It may look like retaliation,” she said.
Because of the lawsuit, Witts said, he wasn’t able to talk about the clerk’s position. He has appointed an interim city clerk and said he has several candidates in mind for the permanent position.
“I want to take it in a different direction,” he said. “I believe we have a team that’s ready to lead the city forward. We need everybody pulling in the same direction. I think it’s very important. We can’t unify Snellville if we have people moving in different directions.”