Communication breaks down in Grantville
by Clay Neely
Monday’s Grantville City Council meeting was almost over before it even started.
Council Member Barham Lundy called for the meeting to be adjourned following an objection by Mayor Jim Sells to amending the evening’s agenda.
Sells lambasted the initial motion to amend the agenda – made by Council Member Leonard Gomez – citing a lack of protocol on behalf of the council member.
“You’ve been here eight months, all right? It’s time you learn how things are done around here. It’s the mayor’s agenda, it’s the city manager’s agenda – I am both,” Sells said. “You bypassed me and went right to the city clerk. There are items you requested that I deemed to be intentionally inflammatory. Have you spoken to me in two weeks?”
Gomez countered that the lack of communication wasn’t intentional.
Lundy then called for a point of order to allow City Attorney Mark Mitchell to clarify the process of adding items to an agenda.
“It was discussed that two members could place an item on an agenda. Beyond that, you have no rules or guidelines regarding putting together an agenda,” Mitchell said. “There is nothing, one way or the other. That might be something you might want to formally address.”
It was then that Lundy made a motion to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Council Member David Riley.
Sells objected to the motion while Mitchell informed him that a motion to adjourn takes precedent over all other items.
During the discussion for the motion to adjourn, Council Member Johnny Cooks said his concern was the lack of understanding by other members that proposed policies and procedures need to go through a committee.
“Two councilmen can and should submit a document to the city manager to be put on the agenda,” Cooks said. “I don’t see that this a judgment call. I think we should follow the agenda.”
Sells indicated his frustration with the city council.
“What we have are four members that want to fight,” Sells said. “Mr. Gomez wants to get his way. I’d love to have it my way, but this council holds my feet to the fire. We have city business to conduct. If you want to make us look ridiculous, that’s your privilege.”
The motion to adjourn failed, with Lundy voting for the measure, and Riley and Cooks voting against. Gomez abstained.
“There is nothing on his (Gomez) list that is urgent that can’t be addressed at the next meeting,” Sells said.
The meeting finally officially began with the unanimous passage of the fire service agreement with Coweta County.
The 50-year agreement obligates Grantville to provide the county with the funds necessary to supply fire service in the city.
“They’re going to give you a number and say ‘this is what it’s going to take,’” Mitchell said, adding the council would have to come up with a millage rate to cover the cost.
Following the meeting, Gomez expressed his frustration in trying to address issues that he felt were important for citizens to be aware of.
“I’m not sure why he (Sells) was so against the idea,” Gomez said. “I thought the issues were … seems like a normal person would indicate the importance of the issues and amend it. But that’s his prerogative, I guess. I don’t see what the big deal was and did he expect some kind of confrontation – we just wanted some answers.”
The issues Gomez aimed to present to the council were:
• Discussion of the suspension of Recreation Director Michelle Huffstickler – the retrofitting of her back pay, and what protocols were followed.
• The discussion of city manager and interim city manager.
• The need for full disclosure on all Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax fund ledgers.
• The need for full disclosure on who has access to the cameras installed at the city parks and if the project has been completed per the city recommendations before the city makes the final payment.
• The need for full disclosure from a local bank regarding contracts and fees that the city was charged and when the city would be getting the fees back. Asking the city attorney what legal actions the city has.
• A change to the town charter that would allow council members to request items to be put on the agenda without any resistance from the mayor.
“We aren’t sure why he wouldn’t allow these items to be discussed but we never got any answers from him,” Gomez said. “We just wanted to document it so it could be on record.”
In an interview with The Newnan Times-Herald, Lundy elaborated on his decision to adjourn the meeting.
“Councilman Gomez had several items he wanted to discuss but the mayor wouldn’t allow it,” Lundy said. “Mayor Sells only wants to discuss the items that he chooses. In this case, he didn’t want to talk about any of Mr. Gomez’s concerns, so what’s the point of even holding a meeting?”