Our story begins with the December 9th City Council meeting, where an item on the agenda was an extension of City Manager Butch Sanders’ employment contract, which was due to expire on December 31st. Mayor Kelly Kautz had proposed that Sanders’ contract be extended for a month to allow for a performance review. Just before the item was to be acted upon, the mayor attempted to remove it from the agenda, but was told she couldn’t by City Attorney Tony Powell. In the end, Council voted 5-1, with the mayor dissenting, to give Sanders a three year extension of his contract.
On Friday, Mayor Kautz told Sanders to stop working. She also sent a letter to Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens asking for an opinion on whether the extension of Sanders’ contract was legal. From her letter to Sanders:
It is my belief that since your contract expired on Dec. 31, 2013 a vacancy in the position of city manager has occurred. As Mayor, I have not nominated you to fill this vacancy due to the actions of Council at the last City Council Meeting; therefore, it is my belief that you no longer have the authority to act on behalf of the City as city manager. I would request that at this time you cease to do so.
For his part, Sanders believes he is still employed.
[B]ased on the fact that five of the six elected officials I work for approved a contract extension in a legal, public meeting plus the certainty in our City Charter that the City Manager serves at the pleasure of the entire M&C; I believe I clearly should continue in my position until the proper legal or judicial entity rules otherwise.
Sanders is backed up in his belief by Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts.
I believe that all the members of council will agree with me that there is no controversy concerning Mr. Sanders competency or employment. At our December 9th meeting Mr. Sanders was given a vote of confidence when five members of the City Council gave him a three-year extension on his contract. Once again, the Mayor has created negative publicity for Snellville. The five members of council will continue to work for positive change and development in the City.
City Attorney Powell also weighed in. In an email to Kautz, he informed her that he told Sanders to stay on the job, and that he was sure Kautz had made “a terrible mistake.”
To sum up, Mayor Kautz believes Assistant City Manager (and Police Chief) Roy Whitehead is now in charge, while the rest of council, the city attorney and Sanders all think he remains employed under the new three year contract.
To my knowledge, there has never been any question over Sanders’ competence as city manager. Sanders is, however, a pawn in yet another Snellville power struggle.