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City of Stockbridge v. Stuart

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 21, 2014

CITY OF STOCKBRIDGE
v.
STUART

Public employment. Henry Superior Court. Before Judge Crumbley.

Fincher Denmark Williams & Minnifield, Steven M. Fincher, Winston A. Denmark, for appellant.

Hecht Walker, Gregory K. Hecht, Joseph W. Cloud, for appellee.

BOGGS, Judge. Barnes, P. J., and Branch, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 17

Boggs, Judge.

The City of Stockbridge (" the city" ) appeals from a trial court order granting Lee Stuart, the then Mayor of the City of Stockbridge (" the mayor" ), injunctive and declaratory relief, and attorney fees, in this dispute involving the extension of Ray Gibson's employment contract as the city administrator.[1] For the following reasons, we affirm.

The record reveals that in April 2011, the mayor and the city council adopted an ordinance creating the position of city administrator. This ordinance, which amended the city's Code of Ordinances, provided that the mayor desired to delegate certain of his powers and duties to that position pursuant to Section 3.21 of the Stockbridge City Charter (" the charter" ) (Ga. L. 1991, pp. 4359-4392). The new ordinance also provided:

(a) Within sixty (60) days of a vacancy in the position of city administrator, the mayor shall recommend to the council [329 Ga.App. 324] at least two (2) qualified candidate(s) for the position of city administrator. In the event the council rejects the mayor's recommended candidates, the mayor shall have an additional fifteen (15) days to interview qualified candidates and make additional recommendations to the council. The council may accept or reject the mayor's additional recommended candidates.
(b) The council shall employ a city administrator pursuant to a written contract and shall fix the city administrator's compensation therein. Said administrator shall serve at the pleasure of the mayor and city council ... .

In May 2011, the city adopted a resolution approving the appointment of Ray Gibson as city administrator. The resolution provided that the mayor " wishes to appoint Ray Gibson to fill the vacant position of City Administrator through December 31, 2011." The city's contract with Gibson provided that the term of employment was from May 3, 2011 to December 31, 2011, and also provided that the city administrator serves at the pleasure of the mayor and city council; that the mayor may recommend, and the city council may remove or suspend, the city administrator; and that " the Mayor may recommend and upon his recommendation, thereafter the City Council may terminate [the] City Administrator's employment at any time, as provided in this Agreement. If the City Council terminates the City Administrator's employment, then this Agreement shall terminate."

In December 2011, the city council, by resolution, extended Gibson's employment contract for three months, until March 30, 2012. The mayor did not sign this resolution, but the parties agree that he acquiesced in this extension of Gibson's contract.

On March 5, 2012, however, the mayor submitted two candidates for Gibson's position for consideration by the city council in accordance with the ordinance, because in his view, the position would be vacant as of March 31, 2012. But during a meeting the day after the mayor's submission, the city council introduced a resolution to extend Gibson's contract to December 31, 2013. The mayor again refused to sign the resolution,[2] and on March 26, 2012, he filed a verified complaint against the city seeking an interlocutory ...


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